|Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China
Jūng'wàh Yàhnmàhn Guhng'wòhgwok Hēunggóng Dahkbiht Hàhngjingkēui
(Hong Kong Cantonese)
Bauhinia blakeana (洋紫荊)
Location of Hong Kong within China
|Status||Special administrative region|
|Ethnic groups (2017)|
|Government||Devolved parliamentary multi-party system|
|Paul Chan Mo-po|
|26 January 1841|
|29 August 1842|
|18 October 1860|
|9 June 1898|
|25 December 1941
to 15 August 1945
1 July 1997
|2,755 km2 (1,064 sq mi) (184th)|
• Water (%)
|59.8 (1,649 km2; 637 sq mi)|
• 2017 estimate
|6,544/km2 (16,948.9/sq mi) (4th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2016 estimate|
|$429.652 billion (44th)|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2016 estimate|
|$320.668 billion (33th)|
• Per capita
|Gini (2016)|| 53.9
|HDI (2015)|| 0.917
very high · 12th
|Currency||Hong Kong dollar (HK$) (HKD)|
|Time zone||Hong Kong Time (UTC+8)|
|Drives on the||left|
|ISO 3166 code||HK|
Hong Kong (Chinese: 香港; pronunciation in Hong Kong Cantonese: [hœ́ːŋ.kɔ̌ːŋ]), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, is an autonomous territory on the eastern side of the Pearl River estuary in East Asia, south of the mainland Chinese province of Guangdong, and east of the former Portuguese colony and fellow special administrative region of Macau. With around 7.3 million Hong Kongers of various nationalities[note 1] in a territory of 1,104 km2, Hong Kong is the fourth-most densely populated region in the world.
Hong Kong was formerly a colony of the British Empire, after the perpetual cession of Hong Kong Island from Qing China at the conclusion of the First Opium War in 1842. The colony expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860, and acquired a 99-year lease of the New Territories from 1898. Hong Kong was later occupied by Japan during the Second World War, until British control resumed in 1945. The territory was returned to China under the framework of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed between the United Kingdom and China in 1984 and marked by the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997, when it became a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China.
Under the principle of "one country, two systems", Hong Kong maintains a separate political and economic system apart from China. Except in military defence and foreign affairs, Hong Kong retains independent executive, legislative, and judiciary powers. Nevertheless, Hong Kong does directly develop relations with foreign states and international organizations in a broad range of "appropriate fields", being actively and independently involved in institutions such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and the World Trade Organization.
Hong Kong is one of the world's most significant financial centres, holding the highest Financial Development Index score and consistently ranking as the world's most competitive and freest economic entity. As the world's eighth-largest trading entity, its legal tender, Hong Kong dollar, is the world's 13th most traded currency. Hong Kong's tertiary sector dominated economy is characterised by competitive simple taxation and supported by its independent judiciary system. Although the city boasts one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, it suffers from severe income inequality.
Hong Kong features the most skyscrapers in the world, surrounding Victoria Harbour, which lies in the centre of the city's dense urban region. It has a very high Human Development Index ranking and the world's longest life expectancy. Over 90% of its population makes use of well-developed public transportation. Seasonal air pollution with origins from neighbouring industrial areas of mainland China, which adopts loose emissions standards, has resulted in a high level of atmospheric particulates in winter.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Government and politics
- 4 Geography
- 5 Demographics
- 6 Economy
- 7 Infrastructure
- 8 Transport
- 9 Education
- 10 Culture
- 11 Media
- 12 Notable people
- 13 See also
- 14 Notes
- 15 References
- 16 Further reading
- 17 External links
"Hong Kong" in Chinese characters
|Cantonese Yale||Hēunggóng or Hèunggóng|
|Literal meaning||Fragrant Harbour,
|Hong Kong Special Administrative Region|
|Cantonese Yale||Hēunggóng Dahkbiht Hàhngjingkēui
Hèunggóng Dahkbiht Hàhngjingkēui
The name Hong Kong originally referred to a small inlet between Aberdeen Island and the southern coast of Hong Kong Island. The town of Aberdeen was an initial point of contact between British sailors and local fishermen. The source of the romanised name is not known, but it is generally believed to be an early imprecise phonetic rendering of the spoken Cantonese pronunciation of 香港 (Cantonese Yale: hēung góng), which means "Fragrant Harbour" or "Incense Harbour". Fragrance may refer to the sweet taste of the harbour's fresh water influx from the Pearl River estuary or to the incense from factories lining the coast of northern Kowloon. The incense was stored near Aberdeen Harbour for export before Victoria Harbour was developed. Another theory is that the name originates from the Tanka, early inhabitants of the region; it is equally probable that a romanisation of the name in their dialect was used (i.e. hōng, not hēung in Cantonese). Regardless of origin, the name was recorded in the Treaty of Nanking to encompass all of Hong Kong Island, and has been used to refer to the territory in its entirety ever since.
The name had often been written as the single word Hongkong until the government adopted the current form in 1926. Nevertheless, a number of institutions founded during the early colonial era still retain the single-word form, such as the Hongkong Post, Hongkong Electric, and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.
Archaeological studies support human presence in the Chek Lap Kok area from 35,000 to 39,000 years ago and on Sai Kung Peninsula from 6,000 years ago. Wong Tei Tung and Three Fathoms Cove are the earliest sites of human habitation in Hong Kong during the Paleolithic Period. It is believed that the Three Fathom Cove was a river-valley settlement and Wong Tei Tung was a lithic manufacturing site. Excavated Neolithic artefacts suggested cultural differences from the Longshan culture of northern China and settlement by the Che people, prior to the migration of the Baiyue to Hong Kong. Eight petroglyphs dated to the Shang Dynasty were discovered on the surrounding islands.
In 214 BC, the Qin dynasty conquered the Baiyue tribes in Jiaozhi (modern-day Liangguang region and Vietnam) and incorporated the area of Hong Kong into China for the first time. After a brief period of centralisation and subsequent collapse of the Qin dynasty, the area of Hong Kong was consolidated under the Nanyue kingdom, founded by general Zhao Tuo in 204 BC. After the Han conquered Nanyue in 111 BC, Hong Kong was assigned to the Jiaozhi commandery. Archaeological evidence indicates an increase of population and expansion of salt production. The Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb on the Kowloon Peninsula is believed to have been built as a burial site during the Han dynasty.
During the Tang dynasty, the Guangdong region flourished as an international trading centre. A military stronghold was established in Tuen Mun to strengthen defence of the coastal area. Lantau Island was a salt production centre and smuggler riots occasionally broke out against the government. The first village school, Li Ying College, was established around 1075 in the modern-day New Territories by the Song dynasty. During their war against the Mongols, the Southern Song court was briefly stationed at modern-day Kowloon City (the Sung Wong Toi site) before their ultimate defeat at the Battle of Yamen in 1279.
The earliest European visitor on record was Jorge Álvares, a Portuguese explorer, who arrived in 1513. Having established a settlement in a site they called "Tamão" in Hong Kong waters, Portuguese merchants began regularly trading in southern China. However, subsequent military clashes between China and Portugal led to the expulsion of all Portuguese merchants in the 1520s. The Portuguese were able to reestablish trade relations by 1549 with annual trade missions sent to Shangchuan Island and acquired a land lease from Ming authorities in 1557 to establish a permanent trade outpost at Macau.
After the Qing conquest, Hong Kong was directly affected by the Great Clearance, an imperial decree that ordered the evacuation of coastal areas of Guangdong from 1661 to 1669 as part of his efforts against Ming loyalist rebels in southern China. Over 16,000 inhabitants of Xin'an County, which included Hong Kong, were forced to migrate inland; only 1,648 of those who had evacuated returned in subsequent years. With frequent pirate attacks and ever increasing incursions by European explorers, forts were constructed at Tung Chung and the Kowloon Walled City.
Though maritime trade had previously been banned, after repopulation of the coast and final defeat of all rebels with Ming sympathies, the Kangxi Emperor lifted the trade prohibition in 1684 and allowed foreigners to enter Chinese ports. Trade with Europeans was more strictly regulated and became concentrated in the Pearl River Delta after establishment of the Canton System in 1757, which forbade non-Russian ships from northern Chinese ports and forced all commerce to be conducted solely in the port of Canton, just north of Hong Kong. While European demand for Chinese commodities like tea, silk, and porcelain was high, Chinese interest in European manufactured goods was comparatively negligible, creating a large trade imbalance between Qing China and Great Britain. To counter this deficit, the British began to sell increasingly large volumes of Indian opium to China. Faced with a drug addiction crisis, Chinese officials pursued ever more aggressive actions in an attempt to halt the opium trade.
In 1839, the Daoguang Emperor, having rejected proposals to legalise and tax opium, appointed viceroy Lin Zexu to eradicate the opium trade. Lin ordered the confiscation and destruction of all opium stockpiles in Canton and a blockade of foreign trade. The British objected to the sudden seizure, especially without monetary compensation for the seized product, and dispatched an expeditionary force to China, starting the First Opium War. After British victory in the Second Battle of Chuenpi, the Qing initially admitted defeat. As part of a ceasefire agreement between Captain Charles Elliot and Qishan, Viceroy of Liangguang, Hong Kong Island was declared to be ceded under the Convention of Chuenpi. British forces took formal possession of the island on 26 January 1841. However, disputes between high-ranking officials of both countries led to the failure of the treaty's ratification. After more than another year of further hostilities, Hong Kong Island was formally ceded in perpetuity to the United Kingdom under the terms of the Treaty of Nanking on 29 August 1842. The British officially established a Crown colony and founded the City of Victoria in the following year.
The population of Hong Kong Island was 7,450 when the Union Jack raised over Possession Point on 26 January 1841. It mostly consisted of Tanka fishermen and Hakka charcoal burners, whose settlements scattered along several coastal hamlets. In the 1850s, a large number of Chinese refugees crossed the open border fleeing from the Taiping Rebellion. Other natural disasters, such as flooding, typhoons, and famine in mainland China would play a role in establishing Hong Kong as a place for safe shelter. Further conflicts over the opium trade between the British and Qing quickly escalated into the Second Opium War. Following the Anglo-French victory, the colony was expanded to include Kowloon Peninsula south of present-day Boundary Street and Stonecutter's Island, both of which were ceded to the British in perpetuity under the Convention of Beijing in 1860. The colony was expanded further in 1898, when Britain obtained a 99-year lease of additional territory from the Qing under the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory; Lantau Island, the remainder of Kowloon north of Boundary Street, further territory beyond Kowloon up to the Sham Chun River, and over 200 other outlying islands were given over to British control.
Hong Kong soon became a major entrepôt thanks to its free port status, attracting new immigrants from both China and Europe. However, the population remained racially divided and polarised under early British colonial policies. Despite the rise of a British-educated Chinese upper class by the late 19th century, zoning laws prevented ethnic Chinese from acquiring property in reserved areas. Though enacted ostensibly to address health concerns of European residents, the Peak Reservation Ordinance and other similar pieces of legislation enforced a system of residential zoning that racially segregated the population of the colony, creating exclusive communities of Europeans in areas like Victoria Peak and Cheung Chau. At this time, the majority of the Chinese population in Hong Kong had no political representation in the British colonial government. The British governors did rely, however, on a small number of Chinese elites, including Sir Kai Ho and Robert Hotung, who served as ambassadors and mediators between the government and local population.
The colony continued to experience modest growth during the first half of the 20th century. The University of Hong Kong was established in 1911 as the territory's first higher education institute. While there had been an exodus of 60,000 residents for fear of a German attack on the British colony during the First World War, Hong Kong remained unscathed. Its population increased from 530,000 in 1916 to 725,000 in 1925 and reached 1.6 million by 1941.
In 1925, Cecil Clementi became the 17th Governor of Hong Kong. Fluent in Cantonese and without a need for translators, Clementi appointed Shouson Chow to the Executive Council as its first ethnic Chinese member. Under Clementi's tenure, Kai Tak Airport entered operation as RAF Kai Tak and several aviation clubs. At the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, when the Empire of Japan invaded China from its protectorate in Manchuria, Governor Geoffry Northcote declared the colony a neutral zone to safeguard Hong Kong's status as a free port.
Japanese military occupation
On 8 December 1941, the same morning as the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Imperial Japanese Army moved south from Guangzhou and crossed the Sham Chun River to attack Hong Kong as part of a coordinated military offensive against the Allied Powers. The Battle of Hong Kong lasted for 17 days, through which British, Canadian, Indian, and local colonial units defended Hong Kong. By the fifth day, Commonwealth troops, under heavy artillery and aerial bombardment, had been forced to abandon their positions in Kowloon and retreated to Hong Kong Island. With the remaining troops unable to further mount an effective defence, Governor Young surrendered the colony on Christmas Day. This day is remembered by locals as "Black Christmas".
During the occupation, the garrisoned Japanese soldiers committed many atrocities against both civilians and prisoners of war, including the St. Stephen's College massacre. Local residents suffered widespread food shortages, strict rationing, and hyperinflation arising from the forced exchange of currency from Hong Kong dollars to Japanese military yen. Widespread starvation and forced deportation of residents to mainland China for use as slave labour drastically reduced the population of Hong Kong from 1.6 million in 1941 to 600,000 in 1945, when control of the colony returned to the British.
Hong Kong's population recovered quickly after the war, as a wave of skilled migrants from the Republic of China sought refuge from the Chinese Civil War in a territory neutral to the conflict. When the Communist Party took full control of mainland China in 1949, even more refugees fled across the open border in fear of persecution. Many newcomers, especially those who had been based in the major port cities of Shanghai and Guangzhou, established corporations and small- to medium-sized businesses and shifted their base operations to British Hong Kong. The establishment of the People's Republic of China caused the British colonial government to reconsider Hong Kong's open border to mainland China. In 1951, a boundary zone was demarked as a buffer zone against potential military attacks from communist China. Border posts along the north of Hong Kong began operation in 1953 to regulate the movement of people and goods into and out of the territory.
In the 1950s, Hong Kong became the first of the Four Asian Tiger economies that was undergoing rapid industrialisation driven by textile exports, manufacturing industries, and re-exports of goods to China. As the population grew, with labour costs remaining low, living standards began to rise steadily. The construction of the Shek Kip Mei Estate in 1953 marked the beginning of the public housing estate programme, which provided shelter for the less privileged and helped cope with the continuing influx of immigrants.
Under Governor Murray MacLehose, the government began a series of reforms to improve the quality of infrastructure and public services through the 1970s. Systemic corruption in the uniformed services had crippled trust in the government; MacLehose established the ICAC, an independent security service under the direct authority of the Governor, to restore the integrity of the civil service. Chinese was recognised as an official language during his tenure, accelerating the process of localisation in the government, slowly handing key official posts long held only by British members of the government over to local ethnic Chinese people. To alleviate road traffic congestion and provide a more reliable means of crossing the Victoria Harbour, the Mass Transit Railway was constructed and began operations of its first line in 1979. The Island Line, Kwun Tong Line, and Tsuen Wan Line all opened in the early 1980s, connecting Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and parts of the New Territories to a single transport system. MacLehose was the longest-serving colonial governor and, by the end of his governorship, had become one of the most popular and well-known figures in the territory. MacLehose laid the foundation for Hong Kong to establish itself as a key global city in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Since 1983, the value of the Hong Kong dollar has been pegged to that of the United States dollar. The territory's competitiveness in manufacturing gradually declined due to rising labour and property costs, as well as new industrial capacity developed in southern China under the Open Door Policy, which was introduced in 1978. Nevertheless, by the early 1990s, Hong Kong had established itself as a global financial centre, a regional hub for logistics and freight, one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, and the world's exemplar of laissez-faire market policy.
The Hong Kong issue
In 1971, China's permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council was transferred from the Republic of China, which had evacuated to Taiwan at the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War, to the People's Republic of China. Hong Kong was soon after removed from the organization's list of non-self-governing territories, at the request of the PRC. Facing an uncertain future for the colony and the expiration of the New Territories lease beyond 1997, Governor MacLehose raised the question of Hong Kong's status with Deng Xiaoping in 1979.
Diplomatic negotiations with China resulted in the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984. The United Kingdom agreed to transfer to China the entirety of the colony, including the perpetually ceded areas of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula, at the conclusion of the 99-year New Territories lease in 1997, when Hong Kong would become a special administrative region governed separately from the mainland, retaining its free-market economy, common law judicial system, independent representation in international organizations, treaty arrangements, and self-governance in all areas except foreign diplomacy and military defence. The treaty further stipulated that the territory would be guaranteed a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years after the transfer, with the Basic Law of Hong Kong serving as its constitutional document.
Under the terms of the Second Convention of Peking, the colony was expanded out to the New Territories, but the treaty did not include a small military outpost over which the Kowloon Walled City would later be built. After the end of Japanese occupation, thousands of refugees fleeing from the mainland during the Chinese Civil War made their way to the Walled City and became squatters occupying this parcel of land where China was technically still the sovereign power. Over the following decades, the population of this 2.6-hectare (6.4-acre) area dramatically increased, reaching 33,000 by 1987, making the Walled City the most densely populated area in the world at its peak. Despite widespread illegal activity and unsanitary living conditions, the British largely took a 'hands-off' approach with regard to the Walled City due to the area's muddled territorial status and to avoid confrontation with the mainland authority. The Sino-British Joint Declaration laid the groundwork for cooperation between the British and Chinese governments concerning any Hong Kong-related issues, including the fate of the former military fort. The Chinese government acquiesced to the demolition of the settlement in 1987. The structure was cleared away in 1994 and the area converted into the Kowloon Walled City Park.
Transfer of sovereignty
On 1 July 1997, sovereignty over Hong Kong was officially transferred from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China, marking the end of 156 years of British colonial rule. As Britain's last major and most populous remaining colony, the handover effectively represented the end of the British Empire. This event made Hong Kong the first special administrative region of China. Exactly at midnight, all government organisations with royal patronage simultaneously dropped the Royal prefix from their titles and any regalia with references to the Crown were replaced with insignia bearing the Bauhinia. After the handover ceremony, Chris Patten, the last Governor of Hong Kong, together with Prince Charles, departed the city on board the Royal Yacht Britannia.
Special administrative region
Almost immediately after the transfer of sovereignty, Hong Kong's economy was severely affected by the Asian financial crisis and further depressed by the outbreak of the H5N1 strain of avian flu. Financial Secretary Donald Tsang used the substantial territorial foreign currency reserves to maintain the Hong Kong dollar's currency peg and spent over HK$120 billion on significant holdings of major Hong Kong companies to prevent a general market collapse. While complete disaster was averted, Chief Executive Tung's housing policy of building 85,000 subsidised flats a year triggered a housing market crisis in 1998, depressing property prices and causing some homeowners to become bankrupt. Hong Kong was again gravely affected by the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. In total, 1,755 people were infected, with 299 fatalities. Economic activities slowed and schools were closed for weeks at the height of the epidemic. An estimated HK$380 million (US$48.9 million) in contracts were lost as a result of the epidemic. While Hong Kong was also severely affected by the global recession of the late 2000s, the Tsang government introduced a series of economic stimulus measures prevented a prolonged recession.
Infrastructure post-handover has been rapidly developed, with major transport links continuing to be planned and constructed. The Rose Garden Project, which began under British administration, to construct a new international airport was completed in 1998 and operations began at the new site during the same year. The Ngong Ping Cable Car, West Kowloon Cultural District, multiple new railway lines, and additional cross-harbour tunnels were all completed in the first 20 years of territorial self-governance. Direct infrastructure links with mainland China are also being actively developed, with both the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge and Hong Kong section of the national high-speed railway currently under construction. Construction of the rail link generated a high level of controversy surrounding the demolition of key landmarks and displacement of residents along the planned route.
Political debates have centred themselves predominately on issues surrounding electoral reform and Hong Kong's jurisdictional independence from the central government. Following the handover, democratic reform of the Legislative Council was immediately terminated and the government attempted to legislate sweeping national security legislation pursuant to Article 23 of the Basic Law. Coupled with years of economic hardships and discontent of Chief Executive Tung's pro-Beijing stance, over 500,000 people demonstrated against the government, which eventually led to Tung's resignation in 2005. Further proposals by the government to introduce a national education curriculum and nominee pre-screening before allowing Chief Executive elections triggered a number of mass protests in 2014, collectively known as the Umbrella Revolution. Violent attacks on journalists, an increasing level of press self-censorship, alleged extraterritorial abduction of anti-China publishers, and covert intervention into Hong Kong's educational, political, and independent institutions have posed challenges to the policy of one country, two systems. In the 2016 legislative election, there were reports of discrepancies in the electorate registry, which contained ghost registrations across constituencies, as well as political intervention to strip pro-independence individuals of their right to stand in elections and alleged death threats to election candidates. Social tension heightened during Leung's term, with many residents believing that China increased their efforts to exert influence on everyday life in Hong Kong. A survey in 2016 showed that only 17.8% of residents considered themselves as "Chinese citizens", whereas 41.9% considered themselves purely as "citizens of Hong Kong".
Government and politics
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, maintaining a separate legislature, executive, and judiciary from the rest of the country. It has a parliamentary government modelled after the Westminster system, inheriting this from British colonial administration. The Sino-British Joint Declaration guarantees the territory's capitalist economic system and autonomous system of government for 50 years after the transfer of sovereignty.[note 2] Under this framework, the Basic Law of Hong Kong is the regional constitutional document, establishing the structure and responsibility of the government. The head of government is the Chief Executive, who is selected by the Election Committee for a five-year term that is renewable once. The central government provides oversight for the regional government; final interpretative power of the Basic Law rests with the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and the Chief Executive is formally appointed by the State Council after nomination by the aforementioned Election Committee. Responsibility for foreign and military affairs is also assumed by the central authority.[note 3]
The Legislative Council is a unicameral legislature with 70 members, consisting of 35 directly elected members apportioned to geographical constituencies, 30 members representing professional or special interest groups formed as functional constituencies, and 5 members nominated by members of the District Councils and elected in territory-wide elections. Legislators are elected using multiple different voting systems, determined by whichever constituency a particular seat is representing. All directly elected seats are filled using a proportional representative system, while functional constituencies other than the all-territory District Council constituency choose their councillors using first-past-the-post or instant-runoff voting.
Government policy is determined by the Executive Council, a body of advisors appointed by the Chief Executive with the authority to issue delegated legislation and proposes new bills to the legislature for debate and promulgation. Direct administration is managed by the Civil Service, an apolitical bureaucracy that ensures positive implementation of policy. Hong Kong is nationally represented in the National People's Congress by 36 delegates chosen through an electoral college.
22 political parties had representatives elected to the Legislative Council in the 2016 election. These parties have aligned themselves into three ideological groups: the pro-Beijing camp who form the current government, the pro-democracy camp, and localist groups. The Communist Party does not have an official political presence in Hong Kong and its members do not run in local elections.
The Monetary Authority is the currency board and de facto central bank of the territory. It is responsible for regulation of the Hong Kong dollar and, along with HSBC, Standard Chartered Hong Kong, and the Bank of China, issues currency in the form of banknotes. Coinage is solely minted by the Monetary Authority.
Legal system and judiciary
The judicial system of Hong Kong is derived from the common law system of English law, and was created at the establishment of the territory as a British colony. Chinese national law does not generally apply in the region, and Hong Kong is treated as an independent jurisdiction. The Court of Final Appeal is the territory's highest court, exercising final adjudication over interpretation of laws and has the power to strike down statutes and legislation inconsistent with the Basic Law. It is led by the Chief Justice and consists of three additional permanent judges and one non-permanent seat filled by judges from overseas common law jurisdictions on a rotating basis. However, final interpretation of the Basic Law itself is a power vested in the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Judges on all courts are appointed by the Chief Executive on the recommendation of an independent commission. As a common law jurisdiction, judicial courts in Hong Kong may refer to precedents set in English law and Commonwealth jurisdictions.
The Department of Justice is responsible for handling legal matters on behalf of the government. Its responsibilities include providing legal advice, criminal prosecution, civil representation, legal and policy drafting and reform, and international judicial co-operation between different jurisdictions. Apart from prosecuting criminal cases, lawyers of the Department of Justice represent the government in any civil and administrative lawsuits against the administration. The department may call for judicial review of government action or legislation and may intervene in cases that may involve the greater public interest. The Basic Law protects the Department of Justice from interference by the government when exercising its control over criminal prosecution. Law enforcement is a responsibility of the Security Bureau and the Hong Kong Police, with agencies like the Customs and Excise Department and Immigration Department handling more specialised tasks.
Responsibility for diplomatic affairs is assumed by the central government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but Hong Kong retains the ability to enter into international agreements in commercial, economic, and other appropriate fields defined by the Basic Law. Under the name "Hong Kong, China", the territory actively participates with foreign nations in international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and the International Olympic Committee. The government maintains trade offices for conducting external commercial relations in foreign countries and Greater China.
Hong Kong is a customs territory and economic area separate from the rest of China and has an independent immigration policy. The region maintains a regulated border with the mainland and all travellers between Hong Kong and both China and Macau, regardless of nationality or residency, must pass through border controls.
Though no longer administering the territory after the transfer of sovereignty, the United Kingdom maintains strong ties with Hong Kong. Hundreds of British corporations maintain offices or their regional headquarters in the territory, and both parties collaborate on a number of economic and bilateral agreements. Hong Kong regularly invites British and Commonwealth judges to sit on the Court of Final Appeal, and its universities remain involved in the Association of Commonwealth Universities. As a party to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the United Kingdom is obligated to ensure proper implementation of the treaty; the Foreign Secretary gives biannual reports to Parliament on the status of Hong Kong.
123 countries maintain consular missions in Hong Kong, as well as major supranational organizations, including the European Union. A number of consulates-general, such as those of the United States and United Kingdom, operate independently of their corresponding embassies in Beijing, extend their areas of jurisdiction beyond Hong Kong to include Macau, are headed by officials with ambassadorial rank, and report directly to their respective foreign offices.
Regional and administrative divisions
Hong Kong consists of three geographical regions, divided by their time of acquisition by the United Kingdom: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories. The city of Victoria, the first urban settlement in Hong Kong, was established on Hong Kong Island, and its area is analogous to present-day Central and Western District.
The territory is administratively divided into 18 districts. Each district is represented by a district council, which advises the government on local issues such as the provisioning of public facilities, maintenance of community programmes, promotion of cultural activities, and improvement of environmental policies. There are a total of 541 district council seats, 412 of which are directly elected and 27 of which are filled by ex officio members consisting of rural committee chairmen, representing villages and towns of outlying areas of the New Territories; the remaining seats are appointed by the Chief Executive. The Home Affairs Department communicates government policies and plans to the public through the district offices. Local administration of municipal services was previously delegated to the Urban Council in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island and to the Regional Council in the New Territories, until they were abolished in 1999.
Electoral and political reforms
Although the Basic Law lays the foundation for the regional government, some of its articles require more specific legislation to be adopted before implementation. Article 23 provides for laws that prohibit treason and subversion in the territory, and a bill was drafted pursuant to this constitutional requirement. The government dropped this proposal after fierce opposition and protests against its perceived potential to restrict freedom of information.
Articles 45 and 68 state that the ultimate goal is for both the Chief Executive and all members of the Legislative Council to be selected by universal suffrage. While the legislature is now partially directly elected, the executive continues to be selected by means other than direct election. From its establishment as a colony, Hong Kong has not had a fully representative democratic government. Colonial administration prior to the Second World War largely excluded Chinese representation. As a British territory, the executive was embodied by the Sovereign, who appointed and was personally represented by the Governor. The Legislative Council initially consisted exclusively of appointed white British members, with its first Chinese member not joining the chamber until 1880. After the end of Japanese occupation and the resumption of British control, amidst the greater movement of global decolonisation, the government seriously considered constitutional reform in Hong Kong; this was ultimately shelved due to fears of government infiltration by communist sympathisers after their victory at the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War.
After negotiation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the Legislative Council was reformed to include functional constituency seats in 1985 and directly elected seats in 1991. Electoral reform introduced in 1994 greatly expanded the electorate for functional constituencies, effectively making them representative. However, the legislature was abolished after the handover and replaced with an interim Provisional Legislative Council, before new elections in 1998 were held under a selection system similar to what was used prior to the last colonial era reforms.
Electoral reform continues to be a contentious issue after the transfer of sovereignty. The government faces ongoing calls to introduce direct election of the Chief Executive and all Legislative Council members. These efforts have been partially successful; the Election Committee no longer selects a portion of the Legislative Council and was slightly expanded to 1,200 members, and the number of legislature seats was increased to 70. A central government decision in 2014 to require Chief Executive candidates to be pre-screened as part of a reform package to introduce universal suffrage incited large-scale protests demanding a more open process. The proposal was later rejected by the legislature and the executive selection process remains unchanged.
Sociopolitical issues and human rights
The Basic Law establishes a series of fundamental rights for every resident of Hong Kong. Though the regional government generally observes these guarantees, the central government has been increasingly perceived to be encroaching on the autonomy of the territory.
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress holds final interpretative power over the Basic Law, and use of it can override any regional judicial process. After the 2016 legislative elections, six incoming Legislative Council members took their oaths of office improperly. The Standing Committee subsequently issued a new interpretation of the Basic Law article regarding assumption of office, preempting a territorial judicial review and allowing the High Court to disqualify the legislators. Judicial independence was also questioned after the disappearance of five staff members of a Causeway Bay bookstore that was known to sell literary material prohibited in the mainland. Their possible abduction and rendition by Chinese public security bureau officials would represent a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, violating the guarantee of regional autonomy; mainland authorities do not have extraterritorial jurisdiction to enforce national laws.
Freedom of the press since the handover have been threatened by incidents of physical violence against journalists and as news media organisations are pressured not to publish stories that portray the central government in a negative way. News media has been increasingly prone to self-censorship, as publication owners expand business interests on the mainland or media organisations become acquired by Chinese corporations. The police have been accused of using excessive force against protesters at public rallies and overtly barring demonstrators from free assembly.
Ethnic minorities, excluding those of European ancestry, have marginal representation in government and are often discriminated against while seeking housing, education, and employment opportunities. While legislation prohibits discrimination based on age, sex, and disability, it specifically excludes migrant workers, along with immigrants and mainland Chinese. Employment vacancies and public service appointments frequently have language requirements, which minority job seekers frequently fail to meet, while language education resources remain inadequate for Chinese learners. In recent years, residents of a minority ethnicity have been more frequently placed on government advisory committees to address racial issues.
Foreign domestic helpers, predominately women from the Philippines and Indonesia, have little protection under territorial law. Although residing and working in Hong Kong, workers of this class are not treated as ordinarily resident, barring them from eligibility for right of abode. Domestic helpers are required to live in the residence of the employer and must leave Hong Kong within two weeks on termination of an employment contract or face deportation. Additionally, the Immigration Department does not renew visas for workers who change employers more than three times in a single year. Legislation offers nominal protection for migrant workers, but the legal process for recourse is time-consuming and costly, potentially taking 15 months for cases to be heard in the District Court or Labour Tribunal. The culmulative effect of these policies and legislation leaves foreign domestic helpers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by employers and greatly restricts their labour mobility.
The territory is protected by the Hong Kong Garrison of the People's Liberation Army, headquartered at the Chinese People's Liberation Army Forces Hong Kong Building in Central. The garrison reports its command to the Central Military Commission. The Basic Law protects all civilians and civil affairs against interference by the garrison. All military personnel, while stationed in Hong Kong, are subject to both national and Hong Kong laws. Under exceptional circumstances, the regional government may ask the central government for assistance from the garrison in disaster relief. During the colonial era, the defence of Hong Kong was the responsibility of the British Forces Overseas Hong Kong, supplemented by local militia organized as the Royal Hong Kong Regiment.
Under current law, Chinese citizens permanently resident in Hong Kong are unable to enlist in the armed forces and are not subject to conscription as prescribed in the Chinese constitution. The People's Liberation Army sponsored the establishment of the Hong Kong Army Cadets Association, a uniformed youth organization of children aged 6 and older.
Hong Kong is located on China's south coast, 60 km (37 mi) east of Macau on the opposite side of the Pearl River Delta. It is surrounded by the South China Sea on the east, south, and west, and borders the Guangdong city of Shenzhen to the north over the Sham Chun River. The territory's 2,755 km2 (1,064 sq mi) area consists of Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories, and over 200 offshore islands, of which the largest is Lantau Island. Of the total area, 1,106 km2 (427 sq mi) is land and 1,649 km2 (637 sq mi) is water. Hong Kong claims territorial waters to a distance of 3 nautical miles (5.6 km). Its land area makes Hong Kong the 167th largest inhabited territory in the world.
As much of Hong Kong's terrain is hilly to mountainous with steep slopes, less than 25% of the territory's landmass is developed, while the majority is grassland, woodland, shrubland, and agricultural land. About 40% of the remaining land area is reserved as country parks and nature reserves. Low altitude vegetation in Hong Kong is dominated by secondary rainforests, as the primary forest was mostly cleared during the Second World War, and higher altitudes are dominated by grassland. The territory is highly diverse: over 3,000 species of vascular plants occur in the region, 300 of which are native to Hong Kong. Over 2,000 species of moths, butterflies, dragonflies, and other insects can be found, as well as one third of the total bird species in China, and a variety of fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals native to the Pearl River Delta. The Bauhinia orchid, native to the region, serves as a symbol for the city, appearing on the territorial flag and emblem.
Most of the territory's urban development exists on Kowloon Peninsula, along the northern edge of Hong Kong Island, and in scattered settlements throughout the New Territories. The highest elevation in the territory is at Tai Mo Shan, 957 metres (3,140 ft) above sea level. Hong Kong's long and irregular coast provides it with many bays, rivers and beaches. On 18 September 2011, UNESCO listed the Hong Kong Global Geopark as part of its Global Geoparks Network. Hong Kong Geopark is made up of eight Geo-Areas distributed across the Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region and Northeast New Territories Sedimentary Rock Region.
Despite Hong Kong's reputation of being intensely urbanised, the territory has tried to promote a green environment, and recent growing public concern has prompted the severe restriction of further land reclamation from Victoria Harbour. Awareness of the environment is growing as Hong Kong suffers from increasing pollution compounded by its geography and tall buildings. Approximately 80% of the city's smog originates from other parts of the Pearl River Delta.
In the Köppen–Geiger classification system, Hong Kong has a humid subtropical climate (Cwa), though it is situated 128 kilometres (80 mi) south of the Tropic of Cancer. Summer is hot and humid with occasional showers and thunderstorms, and warm air coming from the southwest. Typhoons most often occur in summer, sometimes resulting in flooding or landslides. Winters are mild and usually start sunny, becoming cloudier towards February; the occasional cold front brings strong, cooling winds from the north. The most temperate seasons are spring, which can be changeable, and autumn, which is generally sunny and dry. Snowfall is extremely rare, and usually occurs in areas of high elevation. Hong Kong averages 1,948 hours of sunshine per year, while the highest and lowest ever recorded temperatures at the Hong Kong Observatory are 36.6 °C (97.9 °F) on 22 August 2017 and 0.0 °C (32.0 °F) on 18 January 1893, respectively.[not in citation given] The highest and lowest ever recorded temperatures across all of Hong Kong, on the other hand, are 42.1 °C (108 °F) at Waglan Island in June 1991 and −6.0 °C (21.2 °F) at Tai Mo Shan on 24 January 2016, respectively.
|Climate data for Hong Kong (Hong Kong Observatory), normals 1981–2010, extremes 1884–1939 and 1947–present|
|Record high °C (°F)||26.9
|Mean maximum °C (°F)||23.7
|Average high °C (°F)||18.6
|Daily mean °C (°F)||16.3
|Average low °C (°F)||14.5
|Mean minimum °C (°F)||9.1
|Record low °C (°F)||0.0
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||24.7
|Average rainy days (≥ 0.1 mm)||5.37||9.07||10.90||12.00||14.67||19.07||17.60||16.93||14.67||7.43||5.47||4.47||137.65|
|Average relative humidity (%)||74||80||82||83||83||82||81||81||78||73||71||69||78.0|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||143.0||94.2||90.8||101.7||140.4||146.1||212.0||188.9||172.3||193.9||180.1||172.2||1,835.6|
|Percent possible sunshine||42||29||24||27||34||36||51||47||47||54||54||51||42|
|Source: Hong Kong Observatory|
|Climate data for Hong Kong|
|Average sea temperature °C (°F)||19.1
|Mean daily daylight hours||11.0||11.0||12.0||13.0||13.0||13.0||13.0||13.0||12.0||12.0||11.0||11.0||12.1|
|Average Ultraviolet index||7||9||11||11+||11+||11+||11+||11+||11||9||7||7||9.7|
|Source: Weather Atlas |
According to Emporis, there are 1,223 skyscrapers in Hong Kong, which puts the city at the top of world rankings. It has more buildings taller than 500 feet (150 m) than any other city. The high density and tall skyline of Hong Kong's urban area is due to a lack of available sprawl space, with the average distance from the harbour front to the steep hills of Hong Kong Island at 1.3 km (0.81 mi), much of it reclaimed land. This lack of space causes demand for dense, high-rise offices and housing. Thirty-six of the world's 100 tallest residential buildings are in Hong Kong. More people in Hong Kong live or work above the 14th floor than anywhere else on Earth, making it the world's most vertical city.
As a result of the lack of space and demand for construction, few older buildings remain, and the city is becoming a centre for modern architecture. The International Commerce Centre (ICC), at 484 m (1,588 ft) high, is the tallest building in Hong Kong and the third tallest in the world, by height to roof measurement. The tallest building prior to the ICC is Two International Finance Centre, at 415 m (1,362 ft) high. Other recognisable skyline features include the HSBC Headquarters Building, the triangular-topped Central Plaza with its pyramid-shaped spire, The Center with its night-time multi-coloured neon light show; A Symphony of Lights and I. M. Pei's Bank of China Tower with its sharp, angular façade. According to the Emporis website, the city skyline has the biggest visual impact of all world cities. Also, Hong Kong's skyline is often regarded to be the best in the world, with the surrounding mountains and Victoria Harbour complementing the skyscrapers. Most of the oldest remaining historic structures, including the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower, the Central Police Station, and the remains of Kowloon Walled City were constructed during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
There are many development plans in place, including the construction of new government buildings, waterfront redevelopment in Central, and a series of projects in West Kowloon. More high-rise development is set to take place on the other side of Victoria Harbour in Kowloon, as the 1998 closure of the nearby Kai Tak Airport lifted strict height restrictions. The Urban Renewal Authority is highly active in demolishing older areas, including the razing and redevelopment of Kwun Tong town centre, an approach which has been criticised for its impact on the cultural identity of the city and on lower-income residents.
|Sources: Census and Statistics Department, CICRED, Office for National Statistics|
The Census and Statistics Department estimated the population to be 7,389,500 people as of August 2017, with an average annual growth rate of 0.8% over the previous five years. Life expectancy in Hong Kong is 81.2 years for males and 86.9 years for females as of 2014[update], making it the highest life expectancy in the world.
92% of the population is Han Chinese, the majority of whom are Taishanese, Teochew, Hakka, and a variety of other Cantonese peoples. A large portion of Hong Kong's majority population originated from the neighbouring province of Guangdong, from where many fled during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese Civil War, and after establishment of communist rule in China.
The remaining 8% of the population is composed of non-ethnic Chinese. Filipinos and Indonesians form the city's largest ethnic minority groups, many of whom work as foreign domestic helpers. South Asians, largely descendants of British Indian soldiers stationed by the colonial government and migrants of that era, also make up a significant minority. Like many Chinese who crossed the border after the communist victory at the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War, Vietnamese refugees sought refuge and settled in Hong Kong during and after the Vietnam War. Britons, Americans, Canadians, Japanese, and Koreans resident in the city largely work in the commercial and financial sector.[note 4]
A legacy of colonial rule, about 3 million residents hold some form of British nationality, including British National (Overseas) status and British citizenship. The vast majority of them concurrently hold Chinese nationality, which was automatically granted to all residents of Chinese descent at the transfer of sovereignty.
Chinese citizens ordinarily resident in mainland China are not entitled to right of abode in Hong Kong, and are subject to immigration controls. Like foreign nationals, they may apply for right of abode after seven years of continuous residency. Some rights may be acquired through marriage (e.g., the right to work), but these do not include the right to vote or stand for office. The influx of Chinese immigrants is a significant contributor to territorial population growth, and is limited by a daily quota of 150 people with existing family ties in Hong Kong. These immigrants are issued a One-way Permit and have their household registration in the mainland rescinded.
The two official languages of Hong Kong are Chinese and English. Cantonese, a variety of Chinese originating from the province of Guangdong to the north of Hong Kong, is spoken by the vast majority of the population. According to the 2016 by-census, 94.6% of the population speak Cantonese; 88.9% as a first language and 5.7% as a second language.
The Hong Kong Basic Law is written in Chinese and English, and legislation enacted since the handover has been drafted in both languages. Colonial era legislation and court proceedings predominantly used English, so the two languages share a coequal status in the common law system of the territory. Approximately half of the population speak English, though only 4.3% use it natively and 48.9% as a second language. Hong Kong English is the common form of English used in the region, generally following British English in spelling and heavily influenced by Cantonese pronunciations. Among the bilingual members of the population, many exhibit code-switching, mixing English and Cantonese in informal conversation.
Since the transfer of sovereignty, an influx of mainland Chinese immigrants and greater interaction with the rest of the national economy have brought an increasing number of Mandarin speakers to Hong Kong. Mandarin is about as prevalent as English in the territory; 48.6% of the population can speak it, with 1.9% using it as a first language and 46.7% as a second language. Hong Kong uses traditional Chinese characters in written script, rather than simplified characters that are officially used in the mainland.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Basic Law, and many religious organisations have an established presence in the territory. The majority of residents have no religious affiliation, professing some form of agnosticism, irreligion, or atheism. In a 2015 Gallup International poll, 26% of Hong Kongers self-identified as religious. Prior to the transfer of sovereignty, Christianity was the only faith with official presence in the government; only Anglican and Catholic bishops were placed in the colonial order of precedence. Other religions with significant numbers of adherents are now similarly acknowledged by the post-handover government.
Among the religious population, the traditional "three teachings" of China (Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism) have the most adherents, estimated to be around 1.5 million. About 869,000 residents profess Christianity as their faith, forming 11.7% of the total population. Protestants and Catholics make up the bulk of this number, while the remainder is composed of members of other denominations, including Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. Islam has about 300,000 adherents in the territory, 50,000 of which are Chinese. Followers of other religions, including Sikhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and the Bahá'í Faith, generally ethnically originate from the same region as their faith.
Regulation and restrictions on religion that are required in mainland China do not apply in Hong Kong. The Anglican and Catholic churches freely appoint their own bishops and maintain ties with the Church of England and the Vatican. Although banned by the central government, the practice of Falun Gong is tolerated in the territory.
Hong Kong has the highest statistical income gap in the Asia-Pacific region. The Census and Statistics Department measured the Gini coefficient of the territory as 53.9 using data collected in the 2016 by-census.:92 Income inequality has risen since the transfer of sovereignty, as the region's ageing population has gradually added to the number of economically inactive people.:1 While median household income has also steadily increased in the last decade, the wage gap remains high, with the 90th percentile of earners receiving 41 per cent of all income.:86 Despite government efforts to reduce growth of the disparity through assistance programmes such as the Old Age Living Allowance,:5 median income for the top 10 per cent of earners is 44 times that of the bottom 10 per cent.:80 There were 908 homeless persons registered with the Social Welfare Department by the end of 2016,:375 though it is estimated that the actual number is almost double that of the official figure.
The government has stressed that income disparity does not equate to a worsening of the poverty situation, and that the Gini coefficient is not strictly comparable between regions. It has also stated that economic restructuring, household size changes, increases in high-income jobs, and other factors have negatively skewed this metric.
As one of the world's leading international financial centres, Hong Kong has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade. From the second half of the 19th century and continuing into the first half of the 20th century, Hong Kong operated as a key command centre for the allocation of Asian capital in its broadest form. Hong Kong stature as an International Financial centre (IFC), gradually developed from the 1950s to become a key component of the island's economy. It is an important centre for international finance and trade, with one of the greatest concentrations of corporate headquarters in the Asia-Pacific region. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is the seventh largest in the world and has a market capitalisation of US$3.2 trillion as of December 2016. In 2009, Hong Kong raised 22 percent of worldwide initial public offering (IPO) capital, making it the largest centre of IPOs in the world and the easiest place to raise capital. In the 2017 Global Financial Centres Index, Hong Kong was ranked as having the fourth most competitive financial center in the world (alongside cities such as London, New York City, Tokyo, San Francisco, Chicago, Sydney, Boston, and Toronto in the top 10), and second most competitive in Asia after Singapore.
The currency, Hong Kong dollar, is the thirteenth most traded currency in the world as of 2016[update], it has been pegged to the US dollar since 1983. Hong Kong was once described by Milton Friedman as the world's greatest experiment in laissez-faire capitalism, but has since instituted a regime of regulations including a minimum wage. It maintains a highly developed capitalist economy, ranked the freest in the world by the Index of Economic Freedom every year since 1995. It is known as one of the Four Asian Tigers for its high growth rates and rapid development from the 1960s to the 1990s. Between 1961 and 1997 Hong Kong's gross domestic product grew 180 times while per-capita GDP increased 87 times over. In 2008, the territory was named as a Nylonkong global metropolis and financial centre.
Hong Kong is the world's eleventh largest trading entity, with the total value of imports and exports exceeding its gross domestic product. It is the world's largest re-export centre. Much of Hong Kong's exports consist of re-exports, which are products made outside of the territory, especially in mainland China, and distributed via Hong Kong. Its physical location has allowed the city to establish a transportation and logistics infrastructure that includes the world's second busiest container port and the world's busiest airport for international cargo. Even before the transfer of sovereignty, Hong Kong had established extensive trade and investment ties with the mainland, which now enable it to serve as a point of entry for investment flowing into the mainland. At the end of 2007, there were 3.46 million people employed full-time, with the unemployment rate averaging 4.1% for the fourth straight year of decline. Hong Kong's economy is dominated by the service sector, which accounts for over 90% of its GDP, while industry constitutes 9%. Inflation was at 2.5% in 2007. Hong Kong's largest export markets are mainland China, the United States, and Japan.
The territory has little arable land and few natural resources, so it imports most of its food and raw materials. Imports account for more than 90% of Hong Kong's food supply, including nearly all of the meat and rice available there. Agricultural activity—relatively unimportant to Hong Kong's economy and contributing just 0.1% of its GDP—primarily consists of growing premium food and flower varieties.
Tourism and expatriation
In 2014, Hong Kong was the eleventh most popular destination for international tourists among countries and territories worldwide, with a total of 27.8 million visitors contributing a total of US$38,376 million in international tourism receipts. Hong Kong is also the most popular city for tourists, nearly two times of its nearest competitor Macau.
As of 2010[update] Hong Kong is the eighth most expensive city for expatriates, falling from fifth position in the previous year. Hong Kong is ranked fourth in terms of the highest percentage of millionaire households, behind Switzerland, Qatar, and Singapore with 8.5 percent of all households owning at least one million US dollars. Hong Kong is also ranked second in the world by the most billionaires per capita (one per 132,075 people), behind Monaco. In 2011, Hong Kong was ranked second in the Ease of Doing Business Index, behind Singapore. Hong Kong is also ranked No. 1 in the world in the Crony Capitalism Index by The Economist.
|Nominal GDP||HK$2.49 trillion (2016)|||
|Real GDP growth||3.9% (2016)|||
|CPI inflation||2.4% (September 2017)|||
|Unemployment||3.0% (October 2017)|||
|61.2% (October 2017)|||
|Government debt||HK$1.5 billion (September 2017)|||
|Household net worth||US$1.193 trillion (2017)|||
The Hong Kong Government has traditionally played a mostly passive role in the economy, with little by way of industrial policy and almost no import or export controls. Market forces and the private sector were allowed to determine practical development. Under the official policy of "positive non-interventionism", Hong Kong is often cited as an example of laissez-faire capitalism. Following the Second World War, Hong Kong industrialised rapidly as a manufacturing centre driven by exports, and then underwent a rapid transition to a service-based economy in the 1980s. Since then, it has grown to become a leading centre for management, financial, IT, business consultation and professional services.
Hong Kong financial centre matured in the 1990s, but was greatly affected by the Asian financial crisis in 1998, and again in 2003 by the SARS outbreak. A revival of external and domestic demand has led to a strong recovery, as cost decreases strengthened the competitiveness of Hong Kong exports and a long deflationary period ended. Government intervention, initiated by the later colonial governments and continued since 1997, has steadily increased, with the introduction of export credit guarantees, a compulsory pension scheme, a minimum wage, anti-discrimination laws, and a state mortgage backer.
Hong Kong meets its energy requirements largely through imports from external sources, including both generated electricity and fuel.:1 The vast majority of this energy came from fossil fuels, with 46% from coal and 47% from petroleum.:9 The remainder came from other imports, including nuclear energy generated on the mainland.:29 Renewable sources accounts for a negligible amount of total energy generated for the territory;:6 wind power sources have only been developed at a very small scale,:1 while solar panels are deployed on a limited scale for use in private homes.
Water and sanitation
With few natural lakes and rivers, a high population density, groundwater sources inaccessible through hard granite bedrock, and extremely seasonal variations in rainfall, the territory does not have an adequately reliable local source of fresh water. 70 per cent of water demand is met by importing water from the Dongjiang River in the neighbouring province of Guangdong. Use of seawater for toilet flushing, supplied through a separate distribution system, greatly reduces strain on freshwater supply. A planned desalination plant in Tseung Kwan O is expected to reduce dependence on external imports and to provide a more reliable water source during periods of low rainfall and severe droughts.
There are 13 private hospitals and more than 40 public hospitals in Hong Kong. There is little interaction between public and private healthcare. The hospitals offer a wide range of healthcare services, and some of the territory's private hospitals are considered to be world class. According to UN estimates, Hong Kong has one of the longest life expectancies of any country or territory in the world. As of 2012[update], Hong Kong women are the longest living demographic group in the world.
There are two medical schools in the territory, one based at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the other at the University of Hong Kong. Both have links with public sector hospitals. With respect to postgraduate education, traditionally many doctors in Hong Kong have looked overseas for further training, and many took British Royal College exams such as the MRCP(UK) and the MRCS(UK). However, Hong Kong has been developing its own postgraduate medical institutions, in particular the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine, and this is gradually taking over the responsibility for all postgraduate medical training in the territory.
Since 2011, there have been growing concerns that mothers-to-be from mainland China, in a bid to obtain the right of abode in Hong Kong and the benefits that come with it, have saturated the neonatal wards of the city's hospitals both public and private. This has led to protest from local pregnant women for the government to remedy the issue, as they have found difficulty in securing a bed space for giving birth and routine check-ups. Other concerns in the decade of 2001–2010 relate to the workload medical staff experience; and medical errors and mishaps, which are frequently highlighted in local news.
Hong Kong has a highly developed and sophisticated transport network, encompassing both public and private modes of travel. Regulation and administrative policy is handled by the Transport Department. Over 90% of daily journeys are made on public transport, the highest such percentage in the world. The Octopus card, a contactless smart payment card, is widely accepted on railways, buses, and ferries, and can be used for payment in retail stores. Launched in 1997 on the Mass Transit Railway, it is the second contactless smart card system in the world to be used and is a ubiquitous form of payment throughout the territory.
The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is an extensive passenger railway network, connecting 93 metro stations throughout the territory. With a daily ridership of over five million, the system serves 41% of all public transit passengers in the city. Service is extremely punctual, achieving an on-time rate of 99.9%. The rapid transit network operates within inner urban Hong Kong and extends to New Kowloon, Lantau Island, and the northeastern and northwestern parts of the New Territories. Nine railway lines provide general metro services, while the Airport Express provides a direct link from Hong Kong International Airport to the city centre and a dedicated line transports passengers to and from Hong Kong Disneyland.
Cross boundary train service to Shenzhen is offered by the East Rail Line, terminating at immigration checkpoints at Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau. Inter-city trains to Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing are operated from Hung Hom Station. Connecting service to the national high-speed rail system is scheduled to begin in 2018, after construction of West Kowloon Station completes.
Roads and taxis
Road traffic in the territory drives on the left, unlike that of mainland China. Highways are organized as the Hong Kong Strategic Route and Exit Number System, a system of major roads comprising 3 north-south routes, 5 east-west routes, and the New Territories Circular Road. All major geographic areas of the territory are connected over this road system; Route 8 runs along the Tsing Ma Bridge to connect the city centre with Tsing Yi and Lantau Island, and Routes 1, 2, and 3 pass through the three tunnels under Victoria Harbour to connect Hong Kong Island with the Kowloon Peninsula. Route 10 provides direct road access to Shenzhen, terminating at the Shenzhen Bay Port. The territory is connected to the national expressway system at Lok Ma Chau; the G4 Beijing–Hong Kong–Macau Expressway ends at the Huanggang Port and is connected to Route 9 by a short spur road beginning at immediately at the territorial border. When completed, the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge will provide an additional connection to the mainland road system and create a direct route to the western side of the Pearl River estuary.
While public transport systems handle the majority of passenger traffic, there are over 500,000 private vehicles licensed in Hong Kong. Because of the territory's small size, residents are discouraged from private car ownership; cars are subjected to a first-time registration tax, which varies from 35% to over 100% depending on the size and value of the car, and over half the cost of petrol sold at filling stations is due to taxes. Road traffic is extremely congested during peak hours, with average vehicle speeds reaching as a low as 10 km/h (6.2 mph) on major roads. Congestion is exacerbated by the urban layout of the city, the physical constraints to expanding road transport infrastructure, and a growing number of vehicles.
More than 18,000 taxicabs provide transport services for the city and they are easily identifiable by their brightly painted vehicles. The geographical area that a taxicab operates is distinguished by vehicle color. Red taxis serve Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, all of the New Territories, and the northern part of Lantau Island; green taxis operate in portions of the New Territories and specific stations outside of their assigned area; blue taxis are available only on Lantau Island.
Hong Kong International Airport is the primary airport for the territory. Over 100 airlines operate flights from the airport and it is the main hub of flag carrier Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Air Hong Kong, and Hong Kong Airlines. It is an important regional transhipment centre, passenger hub, and gateway for destinations in mainland China and the rest of Asia. The airport is a major international air passenger gateway and services the most air cargo traffic in the world. Handling over 70 million passengers annually, it is the eighth busiest airport worldwide by passenger traffic. The airport is constructed on an artificial island north of Lantau Island and was built to replace the overcrowded Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon Bay.
The Star Ferry, in service since 1888, operates two lines across Victoria Harbour and provides scenic views of Hong Kong's skyline for its 53,000 daily passengers. Outlying islands of the territory are inaccessible by other means and transport to those areas is provided exclusively by ferry operators, including New World First Ferry, Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry, and Tsui Wah Ferry. Ferry services also operate routes to Macau and nearby cities in mainland China, including direct service between Hong Kong International Airport and Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport for transiting passengers. Cross border services operate out of the Macau Ferry Terminal, China Ferry Terminal, and Tuen Mun Ferry Pier.
Hong Kong is famous for its junk ships that traverse the harbour, and small kai-to ferries that serve remote coastal settlements. The Port of Hong Kong is a busy deepwater port, specialising in container shipping.
Buses and trams
Public bus services are franchised and run by five private companies, together operating more than 700 routes across the territory. The largest are Kowloon Motor Bus, providing 402 routes in Kowloon and New Territories; Citybus, operating 154 routes on Hong Kong Island; and New World First Bus, running an additional 56 routes in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. All three major bus operators provide cross-harbour services, serving as a major transport link for the 3.9 million daily bus passengers. Double-decker buses were introduced to Hong Kong in 1949, and are now almost exclusively used; single-decker buses remain in use for routes with lower demand or roads with lower load capacity. Public light buses serve most parts of Hong Kong, particularly areas where standard bus lines cannot reach or do not reach as frequently, quickly, or directly.
Hong Kong Island's steep, hilly terrain was initially served by sedan chairs. The Peak Tram, the first public transport system in Hong Kong, has provided vertical rail transport between Central and Victoria Peak since 1888. In the Central and Western District, there is an extensive system of escalators and moving pavements, including the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, the Mid-Levels escalator. Hong Kong Tramways, which has served the territory since 1904, covers the northern parts of Hong Kong Island. The MTR operates the Light Rail system serving the districts of Tuen Mun and Yuen Long.
Education in Hong Kong is largely modelled after that of the United Kingdom, particularly the English system. The government maintains a policy of "mother tongue instruction" (Chinese: 母語教學) in which the medium of instruction is Cantonese, with written Chinese and English. In secondary schools, "biliterate and trilingual" (Chinese: 兩文三語) proficiency is emphasised, and Mandarin language education has been increasing. The Programme for International Student Assessment ranked Hong Kong's education system as the second best in the world.
Public schools are operated by the Education Bureau. Children are required to attend school from the age of six until completion of secondary education (generally, at age 18). At the end of secondary schooling, a public examination is administered to all students, awarding the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education on successful completion.
Comprehensive schools fall under three categories: public schools, which are fully government-run; subsidised schools, including government aids-and-grant schools; and private schools, often those run by religious organisations and that base admissions on academic merit. These schools are subject to the curriculum guidelines as provided by the Education Bureau. Private schools subsidised under the Direct Subsidy Scheme and international schools fall outside of this system and may elect to use differing curricula and teach based on other languages.
Hong Kong has ten universities within its territory. The University of Hong Kong was founded as the city's first institute of higher education during the early colonial period in 1911. The Chinese University of Hong Kong was established in 1963 to fill the need for a university that taught using Chinese as its primary language of instruction. Along with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and City University of Hong Kong, these universities are ranked among the best in Asia. In subsequent years, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong Baptist University, Lingnan University, Education University of Hong Kong, Open University of Hong Kong, and Hong Kong Shue Yan University were established to meet growing demand for higher education. Competition among students for admission into undergraduate programmes is fierce, as the number of available placements remains limited. The city additionally has post-secondary institutes that provide an alternative path for tertiary education.
Hong Kong is frequently described as a place where "East meets West", reflecting the culture's mix of the territory's Chinese (mainly Cantonese) roots with Western (mainly British) influences from its time as a British colony. Concepts like feng shui are taken very seriously, with expensive construction projects often hiring expert consultants, and are often believed to make or break a business. Other objects like Ba gua mirrors are still regularly used to deflect evil spirits, and buildings often lack any floor number that has a 4 in it, due to its similarity to the word for "die" in Cantonese. The fusion of east and west also characterises Hong Kong's cuisine, where dim sum, hot pot, and fast food restaurants coexist with haute cuisine.
Hong Kong is a recognized global centre of trade and calls itself an "entertainment hub". Its martial arts film genre gained a high level of popularity in the late 1960s and 1970s. Several Hollywood performers, notable actors and martial artists have originated from Hong Kong cinema, notably Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and Jet Li. A number of Hong Kong film-makers have achieved widespread fame in Hollywood, such as John Woo, Wong Kar-wai, and Stephen Chow. Homegrown films such as Chungking Express, Infernal Affairs, Shaolin Soccer, Rumble in the Bronx, In the Mood for Love and Echoes of the Rainbow have gained international recognition. Hong Kong is the centre for Cantopop music, which draws its influence from other forms of Chinese music and Western genres, and has a multinational fanbase.
The Hong Kong government supports cultural institutions such as the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. The government's Leisure and Cultural Services Department subsidises and sponsors international performers brought to Hong Kong. Many international cultural activities are organised by the government, consulates, and privately.
Despite its small area, Hong Kong is home to a wide range of sports and recreational facilities. The city frequently sends regional teams to international competitions and was host to the 2009 East Asian Games, the equestrian events of the 2008 Summer Olympics, and the 2007 Premier League Asia Trophy. Hong Kong's steep terrain and extensive trail network with expansive views attracts hikers, and its rugged coastline provides many beaches for swimming. Major sporting venues in the territory have regularly hosted the Hong Kong Sevens, Hong Kong Marathon, Hong Kong Tennis Classic, and Lunar New Year Cup. Hong Kong was also the host city for the inaugural 1956 tournament of the AFC Asian Cup and the 1995 Dynasty Cup.
Due to British colonial influence, Hong Kong had an earlier introduction to Western athletics compared to other East Asian regions. As part of the government's active involvement in promoting sports participation, the Tourism Board organised the first international dragon boat racing competition in 1976.
Hong Kong maintains territory-wide teams for participation in all international sporting events, and represents itself separately instead of as a part of Chinese national teams. The city has sent athletes to almost every Summer Olympics since 1952. As of 2017, Hong Kong has won 3 medals at the Olympic Games, 126 at the Paralympic Games, and 17 at the Commonwealth Games. No longer part of the Commonwealth of Nations, the city's last appearance at the Commonwealth Games was in 1994.
Hong Kong had two licensed terrestrial broadcasters – ATV and TVB, the former of which has now been defunct. There are three local and a number of foreign suppliers of cable and satellite services. The production of Hong Kong's soap dramas, comedy series, and variety shows reach audiences throughout the Cantonese-speaking population. Magazine and newspaper publishers in Hong Kong distribute and print in both Chinese and English, with a focus on sensationalism and celebrity gossip. The media in Hong Kong is relatively free from official interference compared to Mainland China, although the Far Eastern Economic Review pointed to signs of self-censorship by media whose owners have close ties to or business interests in the People's Republic of China and states that even Western media outlets are not immune to growing Chinese economic power.
- The identity of Hong Kong Permanent Resident can be of any nationality, including Chinese, British, or others. A person not of Chinese nationality who has entered Hong Kong with a valid travel document, has ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than seven years, and has taken Hong Kong as his or her place of permanent residence, is legally recognized as a Hongkonger. See "Right of Abode" of The Immigration Department of Hong Kong
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