So what bothered me so much about the visit? The fort has been well renovated and has saved a very important part of the fabric of Hong Kong history. The various rooms have some very good exhibits and are somewhat informative.
But you have to be on your guard and unfortunately you have to know more than the museum is trying to tell you in order to spot what you aren't being told, and to spot where an attempt is being made to manipulate you. Unfortunately, the average target, Chinese and Hong Kong youth, will not identify this.
One of the most useful stories for controlling the people and as told by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is a about the burning of the Summer Palace in Peking during the Second Opium War, this also being another favourite subject of the CCP. The narrative states that in September 1860 a British Consul in negotiations with the Qing officials was kidnapped. In October, the allied forces made their way into Beijing, looting and setting fire to the Old Summer Palace.
That's it. That's all the explanation that is given. It's history with shocking omissions and many people would see this as simply propaganda aimed at creating hate for those who are the 'outsiders', the non-Chinese. Considering that history can be very emotive, it should always be told with balance, and balance is something you rarely see in mainland China, and unfortunately this has spread to Hong Kong as well.
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the Opium Wars, and the war between two empires (British and French Empires), and another Empire (Chinese), by September 1860 the Second Opium War was coming to an end and all that was left was negotiations.
As the talks concluded, Allied forces thought that the Qing troops were preparing an attack and so pre-emptively attacked, detaining the prefect of Tianjin. The Qing general Sengge Rinchen took the negotiating team prisoner. If that's all the Chinese did, one might think that would be a fair response. Torturing the delegation with the result being the deaths of nineteen British, French and Indian captives is not a fair response.
On October 18, Lord Elgin, the British High Commissioner to China, retaliated against the torture of the delegation by ordering the destruction of the Old Summer Palace. Once destroyed, the message "This is the reward for perfidy and cruelty" was conveyed to the Qing.
This is the major omission made by the museum. Yes, a British Consul was kidnapped. Yes, the palace was burned down. But so much happened between these two events, and not to mention the state committed torture and the mass murder of a diplomatic delegation which triggered the destruction is irresponsible.
After you've experienced my delights or horrors of Hong Kong, see what the destinations below may have in store for you.