An online exhibition of photographs spanning 140 years of Hong Kong’s history as a British colony has just been launched by the University of Hong Kong. These historic images have been selected from the thousands the university acquired last year from photojournalist Frank Fischbeck, a treasure trove of visual records since the 1860s of such events as the Japanese occupation during World War II, the 1967 riots and Britain’s handover of the city to China in 1997. About a third of the photographs in the collection were taken by Fischbeck, who was born in Namibia and settled in Hong Kong in the 1970s. The rest were bought by his company, FormAsia Books, best known for richly illustrated titles about Asian culture and heritage. Fischbeck had a front-row seat at major news events that happened in the three decades before the handover – and not just in Hong Kong. In 1971, he was asked by America’s Life Magazine to shoot the historic visit by the US table tennis team to China, and he also had the rare chance, for a Western photographer at the time, to shoot ordinary citizens on the streets of Beijing and in Lo Wu, just across the border in Hong Kong. One remarkable image that he took shows a row of schoolchildren in a solemn procession, with one child holding a portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong in his hands. Examples from the early archives that he acquired are photographs taken from the opening ceremony of the Chinese section of the Kowloon Canton Railway on October 5, 1911. The Chinese officials were all dressed in costumes of the Qing court because the ceremony took place just days before the start of the revolution that would turn China into a republic. In the official group photo, Hong Kong Governor Frederick Lugard was sitting next to the then Chinese Commissioner of Foreign Affairs, with Cecil Clementi to his side. Clementi would become governor of Hong Kong in 1925. Images taken in 1967 captured the tense atmosphere on the streets of Hong Kong when pro-Communist protesters clashed with police after the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution in China. In one image that recalls the street protests in Hong Kong last year , the police were seen firing tear gas to disperse protesters. However, the tear gas that was used back then is clearly far less of a deterrent than the modern version since both protesters and onlookers seemed more bemused than frightened. There is also a section tracing the run-up to 1997, from the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in Beijing on December 19, 1984, to scenes marking the departure of the British regime 13 years later. Separately, an exhibition at Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club also features old views of Hong Kong. The American engineer Nick DeWolf took thousands of photos of the city during a brief visit in 1972. Unlike Fischbeck’s main focus on newsworthy moments, DeWolf meticulously captured scenes of people going about their daily business against a backdrop that looks very different from today’s streets. As Fischbeck points out, much has changed in Hong Kong and history is at risk of being forgotten 23 years after the handover. As the government increasingly stresses the city’s identity as a part of the Chinese nation, these two collections of photographs can at least remind people of how Hong Kong became what it is today. The online exhibition of the Frank Fischbeck Collection can be viewed via the University of Hong Kong website, with more images to be added in the future. “Hong Kong February 1972 by Nick DeWolf”, Main Bar, The Foreign Correspondents‘ Club, Hong Kong, North Block, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, non-members are welcome from 10am-12pm and 3pm-5:30pm daily. Until December 31.