Hong Kong

This article is about Hong Kong as a special administrative region of China. For other uses, see Hong Kong (disambiguation).
"HK" redirects here. For other uses, see HK (disambiguation).

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China
A flag with a white 5-petalled flower design on solid red background A red circular emblem, with a white 5-petalled flower design in the centre, and surrounded by the words "Hong Kong" and "中華人民共和國香港特別行政區"
Flag Emblem
Anthem: "March of the Volunteers"[1]

City flower
Bauhinia blakeana (洋紫荊)
Location of Hong Kong within China
Location of Hong Kong
Status Special administrative region
Official languages
Recognised regional languages Cantonese[3]
Official scripts[4] Traditional Chinese
Modern English
Ethnic groups
Sovereign state China
Government Multi-party system
   Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying
   Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma
   Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam
   Financial Secretary John Tsang
   Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen
   President of the Legislative Council Andrew Leung
Legislature Legislative Council
   British possession 26 January 1841 
   Treaty of Nanking 29 August 1842 
   Convention of Peking 18 October 1860 
   Second Convention of Peking 1 July 1898 
   Japanese occupation 25 December 1941
to 15 August 1945
   Transfer of sovereignty
from United Kingdom

1 July 1997 
   Total 2,755 km2 (167th)
1,064 sq mi
   Water (%) 59.8 (1,649 km2; 637 sq mi)[6]
   2014 estimate 7,234,800[7] (100th)
   Density 6,544[5]/km2
17,024/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2015 estimate
   Total $412.300 billion[8] (44th)
   Per capita $56,428[8] (10th)
GDP (nominal) 2015 estimate
   Total $310.074 billion[8] (36th)
   Per capita $42,437[8] (18th)
Gini (2011)53.7[9]
HDI (2014)Increase 0.910[10]
very high · 12th
Currency Hong Kong dollar (HK$) (HKD)
Time zone (UTC+8)
   Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+8)
Date format dd-mm-yyyy
Drives on the left
Calling code +852
ISO 3166 code HK
Internet TLD .hk   .香港
a. ^ Cantonese is the de facto standard of Chinese used.
Hong Kong

Chinese 香港
Literal meaning Fragrant Harbour
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Traditional Chinese 香港特別行政區 (香港特區)
Simplified Chinese 香港特别行政区 (香港特区)

Hong Kong (Chinese: 香港; literally: "Fragrant Harbour" or "Incense Harbour"),[11][12] officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, is an autonomous territory on the Pearl River Delta of East Asia.[13] Macau lies across the delta to the west, and the Chinese province of Guangdong borders the territory to the north. With a total land area of 1,106 square kilometres (427 sq mi) and a population of over 7.3 million of various nationalities,[14][note 1] it ranks as the world's fourth most densely populated sovereign state or territory.

After the First Opium War (1839–42), Hong Kong became a British colony with the perpetual cession of Hong Kong Island, followed by the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 and a 99-year lease of the New Territories from 1898. Hong Kong was later occupied by Japan during World War II until British control resumed in 1945. In the early 1980s, negotiations between the United Kingdom and China resulted in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which paved way for the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997, when it became a special administrative region (SAR) with a high degree of autonomy.[15]

Under the principle of "one country, two systems",[16][17] Hong Kong maintains a separate political and economic system from China. Except in military defence and foreign affairs, Hong Kong maintains its independent executive, legislative and judiciary powers.[18] In addition, Hong Kong develops relations directly with foreign states and international organisations in a broad range of "appropriate fields".[19]

Hong Kong is one of the world's most significant financial centres, with the highest Financial Development Index score and consistently ranks as the world's most competitive and most laissez-faire economic entity in the World Competitiveness Yearbook.[20][21][22][23] Its legal tender, the Hong Kong dollar, is the world's 13th most traded currency.[24] Hong Kong's tertiary sector dominated economy is characterised by simple taxation with a competitive level of corporate tax and supported by international confidence in its independent judiciary system where the rule of law, not rule by law, applies to legal, contractual proceedings.[25] However, while Hong Kong has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, it suffers from the most severe income inequality among developed economies.[26]

Hong Kong is renowned for its deep natural harbour, which enables ready access by international cargo ships, and its skyline, with a very high density of skyscrapers;[27] the territory boasts the second largest number of high rises of any city in the world.[28][29] It has a very high Human Development Index ranking and the world's longest life expectancy.[30][31] Over 90% of the population makes use of well-developed public transportation.[32][33] 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.[34][35][36]


Hong Kong was officially recorded in the 1842 Treaty of Nanking to encompass the entirety of the island.[37]

The source of the romanised name "Hong Kong" is not known, but it is generally believed to be an early imprecise phonetic rendering of the pronunciation in spoken Cantonese or Hakka 香港, which means "Fragrant Harbour" or "Incense Harbour.[11][12][38] Before 1842, the name referred to a small inlet—now Aberdeen Harbour (香港仔, Sidney Lau: heung1gong2 jai2, Jyutping: hoeng1gong2 zai2, or Hiong1gong3 zai3 in a form of Hakka, literally means "Little Hong Kong")—between Aberdeen Island and the southern coast of Hong Kong Island. Aberdeen was an initial point of contact between British sailors and local fishermen.[39]

Another theory is that the name would have been taken from Hong Kong's early inhabitants, the Tankas (水上人); it is equally probable that romanisation was done with a faithful execution of their speeches, i.e. hong1, not heung1 in Cantonese.[40] Detailed and accurate romanisation systems for Cantonese were available and in use at the time.[41]

Fragrance may refer to the sweet taste of the harbour's fresh water estuarine influx of the Pearl River or to the incense from factories lining the coast of northern Kowloon. The incense was stored near Aberdeen Harbour for export before Hong Kong developed Victoria Harbour.[38]

The name had often been written as the single word Hongkong until the government adopted the current form in 1926.[42] Nevertheless, a number of century-old institutions still retain the single-word form, such as the Hongkong Post, Hongkong Electric and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.

As of 1997, its official name is the "Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China". This is the official title as mentioned in the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Hong Kong Government's website;[43] however, "Hong Kong Special Administrative Region" and "Hong Kong" are widely accepted.

Hong Kong has carried many nicknames. The most famous among those is the "Pearl of the Orient", which reflected the impressive night-view of the city's light decorations on the skyscrapers along both sides of the Victoria Harbour. The territory is also known as "Asia's World City".



Main article: Prehistoric Hong Kong

Archaeological studies support human presence in the Chek Lap Kok area (now Hong Kong International Airport) from 35,000 to 39,000 years ago and on Sai Kung Peninsula from 6,000 years ago.[44][45][46]

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 (modern-day Viets) to Hong Kong.[47][48] Eight petroglyphs, which dated to the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BC – 1066 BC) in China, were discovered on the surrounding islands.[49]

Imperial China

In 214 BC, Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a centralised China, conquered the Baiyue tribes in Jiaozhi (modern-day Liangguang region and Vietnam) and incorporated the area of Hong Kong into his imperial China for the first time. Hong Kong proper was assigned to the Nanhai commandery (modern-day Nanhai District), near the commandery's capital city Panyu.[50][51][52]

After a brief period of centralisation and collapse of the Qin dynasty, the area of Hong Kong was consolidated under the Kingdom of Nanyue (Nam Viet), founded by general Zhao Tuo in 204 BC.[53] When Nanyue lost the Han-Nanyue War in 111 BC, Hong Kong came under the Jiaozhi commandery of the Han dynasty. Archaeological evidence indicates an increase of population and flourish 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.[54]

From the Han dynasty to the early Tang dynasty, Hong Kong was a part of Bao'an County. In the Tang dynasty, modern-day Guangzhou (Canton) flourished as an international trading centre. In 736, the Emperor Xuanzong of Tang established a military stronghold in Tuen Mun to strengthen defence of the coastal area.[55] The nearby Lantau Island was a salt production centre and salt smuggler riots occasionally broke out against the government. In c. 1075, The first village school, Li Ying College, was established around 1075 AD in modern-day New Territories by the Northern Song dynasty.[56] During their war against the Mongols, the imperial court of Southern Song was briefly stationed at modern-day Kowloon City (the Sung Wong Toi site) before their ultimate defeat by the Mongols at the Battle of Yamen.[57] The Mongols then established their dynastic court and governed Hong Kong for 97 years.

From the mid-Tang dynasty to the early Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Hong Kong was a part of Dongguan County (東莞縣/ 東官縣). During the Ming dynasty, the area was transferred to Xin'an County (新安縣). The indigenous inhabitants at that time consisted of several ethnicities such as Punti, Hakka, Tanka and Hoklo.

European discovery

The earliest European visitor on record was Jorge Álvares, a Portuguese explorer, who arrived in 1513.[58][59] Having established a trading post in a site they called "Tamão" in Hong Kong waters, Portuguese merchants commenced with regular trading in southern China. Subsequent military clashes between China and Portugal, however, led to the expulsion of all Portuguese merchants from southern China.

Since the 14th century, the Ming court had enforced the maritime prohibition laws that strictly forbade all private maritime activities in order to prevent contact with foreigners by sea.[60] When the Manchu Qing dynasty took over China, Hong Kong was directly affected by the Great Clearance decree of the Kangxi Emperor, who ordered the evacuation of coastal areas of Guangdong from 1661 to 1669. Over 16,000 inhabitants of Xin'an County including those in Hong Kong were forced to migrate inland; only 1,648 of those who had evacuated subsequently returned.[61][62]

British Crown Colony: 1842–1941

In 1839, threats by the imperial court of Qing to sanction opium imports caused diplomatic friction with the British Empire. Tensions escalated into the First Opium War. The Qing admitted defeat when British forces captured Hong Kong Island on 20 January 1841. The island was initially ceded under the Convention of Chuenpi as part of a ceasefire agreement between Captain Charles Elliot and Governor Qishan. A dispute between high-ranking officials of both countries, however, led to the failure of the treaty's ratification. On 29 August 1842, Hong Kong Island was formally ceded in perpetuity to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland under the Treaty of Nanking.[63] The British officially established a Crown colony and founded the City of Victoria in the following year.[64]

The population of Hong Kong Island was 7,450 when the Union Flag 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 immigrants crossed the then-free border to escape 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.[65][66]

Further conflicts over the opium trade between Britain and Qing quickly escalated into the Second Opium War. Following the Anglo-French victory, the Crown Colony was expanded to include Kowloon Peninsula (south of Boundary Street) and Stonecutter's Island, both of which were ceded to the British in perpetuity under the Convention of Beijing in 1860.

In 1898, Britain obtained a 99-year lease from Qing under the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory, in which Hong Kong obtained a 99-year lease of Lantau Island, the area north of Boundary Street in Kowloon up to Shenzhen River and over 200 other outlying islands.[67][68][69]

Hong Kong soon became a major entrepôt thanks to its free port status, attracting new immigrants to settle from both China and Europe. The society, however, remained racially segregated and polarised under early British colonial policies. Despite the rise of a British-educated Chinese upper-class by the late-19th century, race laws such as the Peak Reservation Ordinance prevented ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong from acquiring houses in reserved areas such as Victoria Peak. 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.

Hong Kong filmed in 1937

In 1904, the United Kingdom established the world's first border and immigration control; all residents of Hong Kong were given citizenship as Citizens of United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC).

Hong Kong 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 oldest 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 peaceful. Its population increased from 530,000 in 1916 to 725,000 in 1925 and reached 1.6 million by 1941.[70]

In 1925, Cecil Clementi became the 17th Governor of Hong Kong. Fluent in Cantonese and without a need for translator, Clementi introduced the first ethnic Chinese, Shouson Chow, into the Executive Council as an unofficial member. Under Clementi's tenure, Kai Tak Airport entered operation as RAF Kai Tak and several aviation clubs. In 1937, the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out when the Japanese Empire expanded its territories from northeastern China into the mainland proper. To safeguard Hong Kong as a freeport, Governor Geoffry Northcote declared the Crown Colony as a neutral zone.

Japanese occupation: 1941–45

The Cenotaph in Hong Kong commemorates those who died in service in WWI and WWII.[71]

As part of its military campaign in Southeast Asia during Second World War, the Japanese army moved south from Guangzhou of mainland China and attacked Hong Kong in 1941. on 8 December 1941.[72] Crossing the border at Shenzhen River on 8 December, the Battle of Hong Kong lasted for 18 days when British and Canadian forces held onto Hong Kong Island. Unable to defend against intensifying Japanese air and land bombardments, they eventually surrendered control of Hong Kong on 25 December 1941. The Governor of Hong Kong was captured and taken as a prisoner of war. This day is regarded by the locals as "Black Christmas".[73]

During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, the Japanese army committed atrocities against civilians and POWs, such as the St. Stephen's College massacre. Local residents also suffered widespread food shortages, limited rationing and hyper-inflation arising from the forced exchange of currency from Hong Kong dollars to Japanese military banknotes. The initial ratio of 2:1 was gradually devalued to 4:1 and ownership of Hong Kong dollars was declared illegal and punishable by harsh torture. Due to starvation and forced deportation for slave labour to mainland China, the population of Hong Kong had dwindled from 1.6 million in 1941 to 600,000 in 1945, when the United Kingdom resumed control of the colony on 30 August 1945.[74]

Resumption of British rule and industrialisation: 1945–97

Flag of British Hong Kong from 1959–1997

Hong Kong's population recovered quickly after the war, as a wave of skilled migrants from the Republic of China moved in to seek refuge from the Chinese Civil War. When the Communist Party eventually took full control of mainland China in 1949, even more skilled migrants fled across the open border for fear of persecution.[67] 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.[67] The establishment of a socialist state in China (PR China) on 1 October 1949 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.

Stamp with portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, 1953

In the 1950s, Hong Kong became the first of the Four Asian Tiger economies under 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.[75] The construction of the Shek Kip Mei Estate in 1953 marked the beginning of the public housing estate programme to provide shelter for the less privileged and to cope with the influx of immigrants.

Under Sir Murray MacLehose, 25th Governor of Hong Kong (1971–82), a series of reforms improved the public services, environment, housing, welfare, education and infrastructure of Hong Kong. MacLehose was British Hong Kong's longest-serving governor and, by the end of his tenure, had become one of the most popular and well-known figures in the Crown Colony. MacLehose laid the foundation for Hong Kong to establish itself as a key global city in the 1980s and early 1990s.

A sky view of Hong Kong Island
An aerial view of the northern shore of Hong Kong Island in 1986

To resolve traffic congestion and to provide a more reliable means of crossing the Victoria Harbour, a rapid transit railway system (metro), the MTR, was planned from the 1970s onwards. The Island Line (Hong Kong Island), Kwun Tong Line (Kowloon Peninsula and East Kowloon) and Tsuen Wan Line (Kowloon and urban New Territories) opened in the early 1980s.[76]

In 1983, the Hong Kong dollar left its 16:1 peg with the Pound sterling and switched to the current US-HK Dollar peg. Hong Kong's competitiveness in manufacturing gradually declined due to rising labour and property costs, as well as new development in southern China under the Open Door Policy introduced in 1978 which opened up China to foreign business. Nevertheless, towards the early 1990s, Hong Kong had established itself as a global financial centre along with London and New York, 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.[77]

The Hong Kong question

In 1971, the Republic of China (Taiwan)'s permanent seat on the United Nations was transferred to the People's Republic of China (PRC), Hong Kong's status as a recognised colony became terminated in 1972 under the request of PRC. Facing the uncertain future of Hong Kong and expiry of land lease of New Territories beyond 1997, Governor MacLehose raised the question in the late 1970s.

The British Nationality Act 1981 reclassifed Hong Kong into a British Dependent Territory amid the reorganisation of global territories of the British Empire. All residents of Hong Kong became British Dependent Territory Citizens (BDTC). Diplomatic negotiations began with China and eventually concluded with the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. Both countries agreed to transfer Hong Kong's sovereignty to the China on 1 July 1997, when Hong Kong would remain autonomous as a special administrative region and be able to retain its free-market economy, British common law through the Hong Kong Basic Law, independent representation in international organisations (e.g. WTO and WHO), treaty arrangements and policy-making except foreign diplomacy and military defence.

[67] It stipulated that Hong Kong would retain its laws and be guaranteed a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years after the transfer. The Hong Kong Basic Law, based on English law, would serve as the constitutional document after the transfer. It was ratified in 1990.[67] Nevertheless, the expiry of the 1898 lease on the New Territories in 1997 created problems for business contracts, property leases and confidence among foreign investors.

Handover and Special Administrative Region status

Transfer of sovereignty

On 1 July 1997, the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China took place, officially marking the end of Hong Kong's 156 years under British colonial governance. As the largest remaining colony of the United Kingdom, the loss of Hong Kong effectively represented the end of the British Empire. This transfer of sovereignty made Hong Kong the first special administrative region of China. Tung Chee-Hwa, a pro-Beijing business tycoon, was elected Hong Kong's first Chief Executive by a selected electorate of 800 in a televised programme.

Tung Chee-Wah: 1997–2003

Soon after Hong Kong's transfer to PR China, the territory has suffered coincidentally an economic double-blow: Asian Financial Crisis and the H5N1 avian flu pandemic. The then-Financial Secretary, Sir Donald Tsang, adopted a radical measure to make use of British Hong Kong foreign currency reserves and restored Hong Kong's financial stability. In December 1997, officials had to destroy 1.4 million livestock in order to contain the H5 virus from spreading.[67]

Despite a recovering economy from the Asian Financial Crisis, mismanagement of Tung's housing policy triggered a housing market crisis in 1998, disrupting market supply and sent properties prices tumbling until 2002. This caused many homeowners to become bankrupt due to negative equity.

In 1998, Hong Kong moved its international airport from Kai Tak to an artificially-reclaimed island north of Lantau Island. Construction of this new airport began under the British Rose Garden Project and was completed in May 1998.

Chris Patten's democratic reform of the Legislative Council Election in 1994 was abruptly terminated when Hong Kong transferred to PR China in 1997. In 1995, PR China set up a parallel "Provisional Council" of pro-Beijing members in Shenzhen. This Provisional Legislative Council, lacking legislative or constitutional power, moved into Hong Kong and completed its term in 1999. The Legislative Council resumed its full function after the 1999 election under pre-reformed rules; one of the prominent tasks was to complete legislation of articles in the Hong Kong Basic Law, constitutional document of the territory.

Despite the unopposed re-election of Tung in July 2002, distrust of PR China remained throughout Tung's first term as Chief Executive. In 2003, Hong Kong was gravely affected by the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).[78][79] The World Health Organization reported 1,755 infected and 299 deaths in Hong Kong.[80] Economic activities slowed down and schools were closed for weeks at the height of SARS epidemic. An estimated 380 million Hong Kong dollars (US$48.9 million) in contracts were lost as a result of the epidemic.[81]

In May 2003, the government's attempt to legislate Article 23 (National Security) of the Basic Law aroused strong suspicion among Hong Kong citizens. This Article would grant Hong Kong's police force right of access to private property on grounds of 'safeguarding national security', but without court warrants. Coupled with years of economic hardships and discontent of Tung's pro-Beijing stance, a mass demonstration broke out on 1 July 2003. This demonstration hastened the resignations of two government ministers and, eventually, that of Tung on 10 March 2005.[82]

Sir Donald Tsang: 2005–2012

Sir Donald Tsang, then-Chief Secretary for Administration and ex-official of the British Hong Kong government, entered the 2005 election uncontested and was appointed by Beijing as the second Chief Executive of Hong Kong on 21 June 2005. In 2006, Tsang introduced food safety procedures to Hong Kong in light of loose vetting standards, contamination and counterfeit food issues of PR China.

Tsang went on to win a second term in office following the 2007 Chief Executive election under managed voting.[83] As a result of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, Tsang's government rolled out a package of financial stimulus of HK$11 billion and a depositor guarantee scheme to safeguard Hong Kong dollar savings in bank accounts. Hong Kong narrowed avoided a technical recession from the ongoing crisis.

In 2009, Hong Kong hosted the 5th East Asian Games and nine national teams competed in it. The Games were the first and largest international multi-sport event ever organised and hosted by the city.[84] Major infrastructure and tourist projects also began under Sir Tsang's second term, including the Ngong Ping Cable Car, Tian Tan Buddha and the West Kowloon Cultural District. The most controversial, however, was the high-speed railway link connecting Hong Kong and neighbouring cities of PR China; as of 2016, the project has suffered numerous delays, surging labour and material costs and dispute over immigration procedures.

"Hong Kong" branded as "Asia's World City".
Overlook Hong Kong Island north coast, Victoria Harbour and Kowloon from middle section of Lugard Road at daytime.

During Tsang's second term, he initiated modest reforms in areas of education, environment and food safety. He concluded his term, however, when a local news media uncovered evidence of him receiving favours and hospitality from business tycoons on various occasions. This resulted in further discovery of bribery in Tsang's government; then-Chief Secretary of Administration, Rafael Hui, was convicted of corruption in 2014.

Leung Chun-ying: since 2012

3 candidates stood for the 2012 Chief Executive Election, including one from the Democratic Party. A selected electorate of 1,200 pro-Beijing members constituted the election committee; Leung Chun-ying won 689 votes and was appointed Chief Executive on 1 July by PR China.

During Leung's term, the government completed legislation of Anti-trust and Competition Ordinance and introduced minimum wage in 2015. Political debates, however, have centred themselves predominately on universal suffrage and education reform. The government's proposed National Education curriculum in 2014 attracted polarising reactions across Hong Kong's public and a draft bill was eventually withdrawn. Reactions from PR China, including the 2014 White Paper on Hong Kong,[85] attracted worldwide allegations of Beijing's intervention into Hong Kong's high-degree autonomy.[86] The most contentious issue was China's outright disregard of its commitment to the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration in written text. This has fuelled up a number of mass protests and the most prominent one was the Occupy Central (later termed "Umbrella") movement in September to December 2014.[87]

Hong Kong's high-degree autonomy, along with neutrality of press and media, judicial independence and freedom of speech and publication, have at times been scrutinised. With continued distrust of PR China's government, notable events such as violent attack on journalists, increasing level of press self-censorship, alleged extraterritorial abduction of anti-PR China publishers[88] and covert intervention into Hong Kong's educational, political and independent institutions have posed challenges to the "One Country, Two Systems" arrangement. In the 2016 Legislative Council Election, there were reports of discrepancies in the electorate registry, which contains ghost registrations across constituencies, as well as political intervention to strip pro-Independence individuals of their right to stand in elections[89] and alleged death threats to election candidates.[90]

Social tension has heightened during Leung's term, with many Hongkongers believing that PR China increased their efforts to exert influence on everyday life in Hong Kong. The territory currently delegates control of PR Chinese immigrants, as well as issue of visitor permits, to Chinese authorities. On the first day of Chinese New Year 2016, riots targeting the police force broke out.[91] The most recent survey in 2016 (with a sample base of 573) in Hong Kong shows that 17.8% respondents considered themselves as "Chinese citizens", whereas 41.9% considered themselves purely as "citizens of Hong Kong".[92]


The grey dome and front gable of a granite neo-classical building, with a skyscraper in the background against a clear blue sky.
Opened in 1912, this granite neo-classical building in Central used to house the Supreme Court. It became the home to Legislative Council of Hong Kong (dubbed "Legco") from 1985 to 2011, spanning across the British and the Chinese rule. However, as the Legco has moved to a new complex in 2011, the building will revert to a judicial function, housing the Court of Final Appeal from 2015 onwards.

Structure of government

Hong Kong's current structure of governance inherits from the British model of colonial administration set up in the 1850s. The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration states that "Hong Kong should enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all areas except defence and foreign affairs" with reference to the underlying principle of one country, two systems.[note 2] This Declaration stipulates that Hong Kong maintains her capitalist economic system and guarantees the rights and freedoms of her people for at least 50 years after the 1997 handover. [note 3] Such guarantees are enshrined in the Hong Kong's Basic Law, the territory's constitutional document, which outlines the system of governance after 1997, albeit subject to interpretation by China's Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC).[93][94]

Hong Kong's most senior leader, Chief Executive, is elected by a committee of 1,200 selected members (600 in 1997) and nominally appointed by the Government of PR China. The primary pillars of government are the Executive Council, Legislative Council, civil service and Judiciary.

Policy-making is initially discussed in the Executive Council, presided by the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, before passing to the Legislative Council for bill adopation. The Executive Council consists of 30 official/unofficial members appointed by the Chief Executive and one member among them acts as the convenor.[95][96]

The Legislative Council, set up in 1843, debates policies and motions before voting to adopt or rejecting bills. It has 70 members (originally 60) and 40 (originally 30) among them are directly elected by universal suffrage; the other 30 members are "functional constituencies" (indirectly) elected by a smaller electorate of corporate bodies or representatives of stipulated economic sectors as defined by the government. The Legislative Council is chaired by a president who acts as the speaker.[97][98]

In 1997, seating of the Legislative Council (also public services and election franchises) of Hong Kong modelled on the British system: Urban Council (Hong Kong and Kowloon) and District Council (New Territories and Outlying Islands). In 1999, this system has been reformed into 18 directly elected District Offices across 5 Legislative Council constituencies: Hong Kong Island (East/West), Kowloon and New Territories (East/West); the remaining outlying islands are divided across the aforementioned regions.

Hong Kong's Civil Service, created by the British colonial government, is a politically neutral body that implements government policies and provides public services. Senior civil servants are appointed based on meritocracy. The territory's police, firefighting and customs forces, as well as clerical officers across various government departments, make up the civil service.[99][100]

Electoral and political reforms

Hong Kong's Basic Law, implemented in the territory on 1 July 1997, consists of outstanding articles which require bill adoption by the Legislative Council before becoming effective laws. Two of the most prominent articles include Article 23 ("National Security") and universal suffrage of Chief Executive elections. In 2002, the government's motion of an anti-subversion bill pursuant to Article 23, was met with fierce opposition and eventually dropped.[101][102] Reform bills on universal suffrage, however, have made partial progress in expanding the Chief Executive election's committee (from 600 to 800 in 2007 and to 1,200 selected members in 2012) and the Legislative Council (from 60 to 70 seats). These additional 10 seats are created through directly elected members of District Offices.[103]

Continual debate between pro-Beijing and pan-democratic factions characterises Hong Kong's contemporary political landscape across the transition from the British Empire to PR China. Aside from clashes over a range of social, welfare, labour and economic policies, the most contentious topic has been universal suffrage. Ideological differences over the pace of democratisation have shadowed over the 2004 Bill of Political Reform "District Council Model (District Office)", 2009 Bill of Political Reform (passed 46-12) "Consultation Document on the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive and for Forming the LegCo in 2012" [104][105] and the 2015 Bill of Political Reform (blocked 8-27).[106]

blindfolded lady with sword in right hand held vertically down to floor, and a set of balance scales in her left hand held neck high
Themis or Lady Justice, armed with sword and balance scales (Court of Final Appeal Building, Central, Hong Kong). She is the personification of justice balancing the scales of truth and fairness.

Hong Kong's current legal system, independent of the legal system of mainland China and Chinese civil law, inherits from British Common Law established before 1997. The guiding principle is an independent judicial system in which the Rule of Law, as opposed to Rule by Law, safeguards judicial courts from government intervention.[107]

The essence of British Common Law is the juror system: court judges (equivalent to British JPs) make case verdicts with the assistance of a group of eligible, court-appointed jurors who are members of the public. One feature of the Common Law system is the basis of legal precedent (stare decisis) in which judges refer to empirical evidence from previous cases of a similar category prior to handing out a final verdict. According to Article 92 of Hong Kong's Basic Law, judicial courts may refer to decisions which are rendered by courts of other common law jurisdictions as precedents[16][108] (England, Canada and Australia). Judges from these jurisdictions are permitted to sit as non-permanent judges of the Court of Final Appeal.[16][108]

Hong Kong's court system comprises the Court of Final Appeal (formerly HM Court of Final Appeal in the United Kingdom), the High Court (constitutes the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance) and the District Court (includes the Family Court).[109] Other adjudicative bodies include the Lands Tribunal, the Magistrates' Courts, the Juvenile Court, the Coroner's Court, the Labour Tribunal, the Small Claims Tribunal and the Obscene Articles Tribunal.[109] Judges are appointed by the Chief Executive on the recommendation of an independent commission.[16][110] The Court of Final Appeal has the power of final adjudication with respect to Hong Kong's Basic Law, as well as the power of final interpretation over local laws such as the power to strike down local ordinances on the grounds of inconsistency with the Basic Law.[111][112]

The Department of Justice is responsible for handling legal matters for the government. Its responsibilities include providing legal advice, criminal prosecution, civil representation, legal and policy drafting and reform and international legal co-operation between different jurisdictions.[107] Apart from prosecuting criminal cases, lawyers of the Department of Justice act on behalf of the government in all civil and administrative lawsuits against the government.[107] As protector of public interest, the department may apply for judicial reviews and may intervene in any cases involving the greater public interest.[113] The Basic Law protects the Department of Justice from any interference by the government when exercising its control over criminal prosecution.[114][115]

Foreign relations

Hong Kong's Basic Law (Article 151) delegates all diplomatic affairs to PR China's Foreign Ministry, but the territory retains exclusive rights in fostering external relations in international organisations, co-operation bodies and sports and cultural events. Under the alias "Hong Kong, China", Hong Kong maintains active partnerships with foreign nations in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). Overseas Representatives of Hong Kong cover the fields of economy, trade, monetary finance, shipping, communications, tourism, culture and sports.[116]

Under the special condition of Hong Kong's high-degree autonomy, the territory is able to maintain an independent customs area and separate immigration policy from those of PR China. This separate exercise of customs and immigration, subject to conditional reviews, is recognised by foreign nations through their legislature, such as the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act. Hong Kong maintains an international border with PR China across 5 border control stations by land, 3 entry and exit points by sea and the International Airport. Applications for entry permits are, however, handled by Chinese Embassies for Hong Kong.

Foreign representation in Hong Kong includes 59 Consulates-General, 62 Consulates/Embassies and 5 officially recognised international bodies, such as the Office of the European Union. A number of Consulate-Generals in Hong Kong, such as the United States and United Kingdom, operate independently of their embassies in Beijing, extend their areas of jurisdiction beyond Hong Kong to include Macau, and report directly to their respective foreign offices.[117][118][119]

Human rights

The Hong Kong government generally respects the human rights of its citizens, and members of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and the District Council of Hong Kong are elected into office by Hong Kong citizens. However, there are 27 ex officio members of the district council (the Rural Committee Chairmen in the New Territories) as of the fifth District Council Assembly, and roughly half of the legislative council seats are elected by 3% of the people in Hong Kong through the functional constituency. The imbalance of voting power in the LegCo has led to widespread criticism of its inability to represent Hongkongers' socio-economic needs.[120] In addition, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong is elected by 1,200 members based on their contributions to four different sectors of Hong Kong's society. This policy has received criticism from various political figures in Hong Kong, and led to the Umbrella Revolution. Plans to expand the voting population had begun to appear in the 2000s, and political figures liaised with the government to provide universal suffrage.

There are restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of assembly.[121][122] 200,000 migrant workers cannot make complaints against their employers since they face deportation if dismissed from their jobs. A 2008 law against racial discrimination does not cover mainlanders, immigrants or migrant workers.[123] The police have been accused of using heavy-handed tactics toward protesters in public rallies,[124] and there is controversy regarding the extensive powers of the police.[125] Covert surveillance is another major concern.[126]

Hong Kong has a higher age-of-consent and harsher punishments for illegal homosexual acts.[127]

Internet censorship in Hong Kong operates under different principles and regulations from those of mainland China.[128] In November 2015, the newly established Innovation and Technology Bureau pushed for the legislation of the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014, more popularly known as the Internet Article 23, which would severely limit the legality of derivative works[129] and other activities previously permitted on the Internet.[130][131] Supporters of the bill point to the fact that Hong Kong is lagging behind in the protection of intellectual property rights, but detractors state that creative work on the Internet should be exempt from legislation, and the ordinance would severely violate human rights.

Regions and districts

Hong Kong comprises three geographical regions, which coincided with its historical expansion by the British colonial government: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon (1860) and the New Territories and Outlying Islands (1898). The first established settlement was City of Victoria on Hong Kong Island. Its area coincided with modern-day Central and Western District (#15 in map).

Since the abolition of decentralised Urban and District Councils in 1999, Hong Kong is now a unitary territory subdivided into 18 districts. Each district is represented by a district council, who advises the government on various local agendas such as public facilities, community programmes, cultural activities and environmental policies.[132] There are a total of 541 district council seats, 412 of which are directly elected and another 27 are ex-officio chairmen of rural committees (families of landowners in the New Territories before 1898); the remaining seats are appointed by the Chief Executive.[132] The Home Affairs Department communicates government policies and plans to the public through the district offices.[133]

Hong Kong Island
New Territories
18 Administrative Districts: 1. Islands, 2. Kwai Tsing, 3. North, 4. Sai Kung, 5. Sha Tin, 6. Tai Po, 7. Tsuen Wan, 8. Tuen Mun, 9. Yuen Long, 10. Kowloon City, 11. Kwun Tong, 12. Sham Shui Po, 13. Wong Tai Sin, 14. Yau Tsim Mong, 15. Central & Western, 16. Eastern, 17. Southern, 18. Wan Chai


PLA Hong Kong Garrison arm badge

Since July 1997, the responsibility of maintaining the military forces in Hong Kong has been delegated to China's PLA Hong Kong Garrison under the Liberation Army. The garrison, consisting of units from ground, naval and air forces, reports its command to the Central Military Commission.

The Basic Law of Hong Kong protects all civilians and civil affairs against any interference by the garrison. All military personnel, while stationed in Hong Kong, must remain within barrack grounds. When such personnel leave their barracks, they are subject to Hong Kong laws. Local police, who are civil servants, is responsible for maintaining public order; under exceptional circumstances, however, the police force may ask China for assistance from the garrison in disaster relief.[101][134]

In January 2015, the People's Liberation Army sponsored the establishment of Hong Kong Army Cadets Association for children over 6 years old. The inauguration ceremony was held at a garrison's naval base in Hong Kong; only pro-Beijing press received invitation to this event.[135]

Geography and climate

Topographical satellite image with enhanced colours showing areas of vegetation and conurbation. Purple areas around the coasts indicate the areas of urban development
Areas of urban development and vegetation are visible in this false-colour satellite image.

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.[13] Less than 25% of Hong Kong's land area is built-up, while the majority is grassland, woodland, shrubland, and agricultural land.[136]

Higher-altitude areas of Hong Kong are often dominated by grassland: Lantau Island during the dry season.

As much of Hong Kong's terrain is hilly to mountainous with steep slopes, less than 25% of the territory's landmass is developed, and about 40% of the remaining land area is reserved as country parks and nature reserves.[137] 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 grasslands. 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.[138] The highest elevation in the territory is at Tai Mo Shan, 957 metres (3,140 ft) above sea level.[139] Hong Kong's long and irregular coast provides it with many bays, rivers and beaches.[140] On 18 September 2011, UNESCO listed the Hong Kong National 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.[141]

Despite Hong Kong's reputation of being intensely urbanised, the territory has tried to promote a green environment,[142] and recent growing public concern has prompted the severe restriction of further land reclamation from Victoria Harbour.[143] 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.[144]

Though it is situated just south of the Tropic of Cancer, Hong Kong has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cwa). Summer is hot and humid with occasional showers and thunderstorms, and warm air coming from the southwest. Typhoons most often occur in summer. They sometimes result 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.[145] Snowfall is extremely rare, and usually occurs in areas of high elevation. Hong Kong averages 1,948 hours of sunshine per year,[146] while the highest and lowest ever recorded temperatures at the Hong Kong Observatory are 36.3 °C (97.3 °F) on 8 August 2015 and 0.0 °C (32.0 °F) on 18 January 1893, respectively.[147][148] The highest and lowest ever recorded temperatures across all of Hong Kong, on the other hand, are 37.9 °C (100.2 °F) at Happy Valley on 8 August 2015 and −6.0 °C (21.2 °F) at Tai Mo Shan on 24 January 2016, respectively. With data beginning in 1998, the highest and lowest temperatures ever recorded at the Hong Kong International Airport are 37.7 °C (99.9 °F) on 9 August 2015 and 2.9 °C (37.2 °F) on 24 January 2016, respectively.

Climate data for Hong Kong (Hong Kong Observatory), normals 1981–2010, extremes 1884–1939 and 1947–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
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[149][147][148][150]
Climate data for Hong Kong International Airport (normals and extremes 1998–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 27.2
Average high °C (°F) 19.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 16.3
Average low °C (°F) 13.7
Record low °C (°F) 2.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 29.6
Average rainy days (≥ 0.5 mm) 3.3 4.7 6.7 8.3 12.4 16.5 15.3 13.6 9.8 3.6 3.7 3.8 101.7
Average relative humidity (%) 67 73 74 76 75 76 74 75 71 65 65 61 71
Source: Hong Kong Observatory[151][152]


Main article: Economy of Hong Kong
A brightly lit tall skyscraper at night
The Two International Finance Centre in Central, an integrated commercial development in Central

Financial centre

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.[153] It is an important centre for international finance and trade, with one of the greatest concentrations of corporate headquarters in the Asia-Pacific region.[154] The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is the seventh largest in the world and has a market capitalisation of US$2.3 trillion as of December 2009.[155] In that year, Hong Kong raised 22 percent of worldwide initial public offering (IPO) capital, making it the largest centre of IPOs in the world [156] and the easiest place to raise capital.

The currency, Hong Kong dollar, is the eighth most traded currency in the world as of 2010,[24] it has been pegged to the US dollar since 1983.[157] 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.[158] It maintains a highly developed capitalist economy, ranked the freest in the world by the Index of Economic Freedom every year since 1995.[159][160][161] 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.[162][163][164] In 2008, the territory was named as a Nylonkong global metropolis and financial centre.[165]

International trading

Hong Kong is the world's eleventh largest trading entity,[166] with the total value of imports and exports exceeding its gross domestic product. It is the world's largest re-export centre.[167] Much of Hong Kong's exports consist of re-exports,[168] 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.[169] 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.[170] Hong Kong's largest export markets are mainland China, the United States, and Japan.[171]

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.[172] 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.[173]

As of 2010 Hong Kong is the eighth most expensive city for expatriates, falling from fifth position in the previous year.[174] 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.[175] Hong Kong is also ranked second in the world by the most billionaires per capita (one per 132,075 people), behind Monaco.[176] In 2011, Hong Kong was ranked second in the Ease of Doing Business Index, behind Singapore.[177] Hong Kong is also ranked No. 1 in the world in the Crony Capitalism Index by the Economist.[178]


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.[179] 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.[180][181] 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.[158]


A map of the Mass Transit Railway network.
The Mass Transit Railway has more than 150 stations in its network.
CityBus Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 10.5m-A double-decker in Hong Kong heading to Stanley
Hong Kong – Kowloon Star Ferry

Hong Kong's transportation network is highly developed. Over 90% of daily travels (11 million) are on public transport,[32] the highest such percentage in the world.[33] Payment can be made using the Octopus card, a stored value system introduced by the MTR (Mass Transit Railway), which is widely accepted on railways, buses and ferries, and accepted like cash at other outlets.[182][183]

The city's main railway company (KCRC) was merged with MTR in 2007, creating a comprehensive rail network for the whole territory (also called MTR).[184] The MTR rapid transit system has 152 stations which serve 3.4 million people a day.[185] Hong Kong Tramways, which has served the territory since 1904, covers the northern parts of Hong Kong Island.[186]

Hong Kong's bus service is franchised and run by private operators. Five privately owned companies provide franchised bus service across the territory, together operating more than 700 routes as of 2014. The largest are Kowloon Motor Bus, providing 402 routes in Kowloon and New Territories, and Citybus, operating 154 routes on Hong Kong Island; both run cross-harbour services. 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.[187]

The Star Ferry service, founded in 1888, operates two lines across Victoria Harbour and provides scenic views of Hong Kong's skyline for its 53,000 daily passengers.[188] It acquired iconic status following its use as a setting on The World of Suzie Wong. Travel writer Ryan Levitt considered the main Tsim Sha Tsui to Central route one of the most picturesque in the world.[189] Other ferry services are provided by operators serving outlying islands, new towns, Macau, and cities in mainland China. Hong Kong is famous for its junks traversing the harbour, and small kai-to ferries that serve remote coastal settlements.[190][191] The Port of Hong Kong is a busy deepwater port, specialising in container shipping.[192]

Hong Kong Island's steep, hilly terrain was initially served by sedan chairs.[193] The Peak Tram, the first public transport system in Hong Kong, has provided vertical rail transport between Central and Victoria Peak since 1888.[194] In 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.[195]

Hong Kong International Airport is a leading air passenger gateway and logistics hub in Asia and one of the world's busiest airports in terms of international passenger and cargo movement, serving more than 47 million passengers and handling 3.74 million tonnes (4.12 million tons) of cargo in 2007.[196] It replaced the overcrowded Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon in 1998, and has been rated as the world's best airport in a number of surveys.[197] Over 85 airlines operate at the two-terminal airport and it is the primary hub of Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Air Hong Kong, Hong Kong Airlines, and Hong Kong Express.[196][198]

Providing an adequate water supply for Hong Kong has always been difficult because the region has few natural lakes and rivers, inadequate groundwater sources (inaccessible in most cases due to the hard granite bedrock found in most areas in the territory), a high population density, and extreme seasonable variations in rainfall. Thus about 70 percent of water demand is met by importing water from the Dongjiang River in neighbouring Guangdong province. In addition, freshwater demand is curtailed by the use of seawater for toilet flushing, using a separate distribution system.[199]


St. John's Cathedral, Anglican cathedral in Hong Kong, the oldest church building in Hong Kong
The Big Buddha, on Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Catholic cathedral in Hong Kong

The territory's population in mid-2015 is 7.30 million,[200] with an average annual growth rate of 0.8% over the previous 5 years.[5][201] The current population of Hong Kong comprises 91% ethnic Chinese.[5][202][203] A major part of Hong Kong's Cantonese-speaking majority originated from the neighbouring Guangdong province,[204] from where many fled during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese Civil War, and the communist rule in China.[205][206][207][208]

Residents of the Mainland do not automatically receive the Right of Abode, and many may not enter the territory freely. Like other non-natives, they may apply for the Right of Abode after seven years of continuous residency. Some of the rights may also be acquired by marriage (e.g., the right to work), but these do not include the right to vote or stand for office.[209] However, the influx of immigrants from mainland China, approximating 45,000 per year, is a significant contributor to its population growth – a daily quota of 150 Mainland Chinese with family ties in Hong Kong are granted a "one way permit".[210] Life expectancy in Hong Kong is 81.2 years for males and 86.9 years for females as of 2014, making it the highest life expectancy in the world.[171][211]

About 91% of the people of Hong Kong are of Chinese descent,[5][202][203] the majority of whom are Taishanese, Chiu Chow, other Cantonese people, and Hakka. Hong Kong's Han majority originate mainly from the Guangzhou and Taishan regions in Guangdong province.[204] The remaining 6.9% of the population is composed of non-ethnic Chinese.[5] There is a South Asian population of Indians and Pakistanis; some Vietnamese refugees have become permanent residents of Hong Kong. There are also Britons, Americans, Canadians, Japanese, and Koreans working in the city's commercial and financial sector.[note 4] In 2011, 133,377 foreign domestic helpers from Indonesia and 132,935 from the Philippines were working in Hong Kong.[215]

Hong Kong's de facto official language is Cantonese, a variety of Chinese originating from Guangdong province to the north of Hong Kong.[216] English is also an official language, and according to a 1996 by-census is spoken by 3.1 percent of the population as an everyday language and by 34.9 percent of the population as a second language.[217] Signs displaying both Chinese and English are common throughout the territory. Since the 1997 Handover, an increase in immigrants from mainland China and greater interaction with the mainland's economy have brought an increasing number of Mandarin speakers to Hong Kong.[218]


Main article: Religion in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a multi-faith society. A majority of residents of Hong Kong have no religious affiliation, professing a form of agnosticism or atheism.[219] According to the United States Department of State 43 percent of the population practises some form of religion.[220] Some figures put it higher, according to a Gallup poll, 64% of Hong Kong residents do not believe in any religion.[221][222]

In Hong Kong teaching evolution won out in curriculum dispute about whether to teach other explanations, and that creationism and intelligent design will form no part of the senior secondary biology curriculum.[223][224]

Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of religious freedom, guaranteed by the Basic Law. Hong Kong's main religions are Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism; a local religious scholar in contact with major denominations estimates there are approximately 1.5 million Buddhists and Taoists.[220] A Christian community of around 833,000 forms about 11.7% of the total population;[225] Protestants outnumber Roman Catholics by a ratio of 4:3, and smaller Christian communities also exist, including the Latter-day Saints[226] and Jehovah's Witnesses.[227] The Anglican and Roman Catholic churches each freely appoint their own bishops, unlike in mainland China. There are also Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Bahá'í communities.[228] The practice of Falun Gong is tolerated.[229]

Personal income

Statistically Hong Kong's income gap is the largest in Asia Pacific. According to a report by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme in 2008, Hong Kong's Gini coefficient, at 0.53, was the highest in Asia and "relatively high by international standards".[230][231] However, the government has stressed that income disparity does not equate to worsening of the poverty situation, and that the Gini coefficient is not strictly comparable between regions. The government has named economic restructuring, changes in household sizes, and the increase of high-income jobs as factors that have skewed the Gini coefficient.[232][233]


Hong Kong's education system used to roughly follow the system in England,[234] although international systems exist. The government maintains a policy of "mother tongue instruction" (Chinese: 母語教學) in which the medium of instruction is Cantonese,[235] with written Chinese and English, while some of the schools are using English as the teaching language. In secondary schools, 'biliterate and trilingual' proficiency is emphasised, and Mandarin-language education has been increasing.[236] The Programme for International Student Assessment ranked Hong Kong's education system as the second best in the world.[237]

Hong Kong's public schools are operated by the Education Bureau. The system features a non-compulsory three-year kindergarten, followed by a compulsory six-year primary education, a compulsory three-year junior secondary education, a non-compulsory two-year senior secondary education leading to the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examinations and a two-year matriculation course leading to the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examinations.[238] The New Senior Secondary academic structure and curriculum was implemented in September 2009, which provides for all students to receive three years of compulsory junior and three years of compulsory senior secondary education.[239][240] Under the new curriculum, there is only one public examination, namely the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.[241]

Most comprehensive schools in Hong Kong fall under three categories: the rarer public schools; the more common subsidised schools, including government aids-and-grant schools; and private schools, often run by Christian organisations and having admissions based on academic merit rather than on financial resources. Outside this system are the schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme and private international schools.[240]

There are eight public and one private universities in Hong Kong, the oldest being the University of Hong Kong (HKU), established in 1910–1912.[242] The Chinese University of Hong Kong was founded in 1963 to fulfill the need for a university with a medium of instruction of Chinese.[243] Competition among students to receive an offer for an undergraduate programme is fierce as the annual number of intakes is limited, especially when some disciplines are offered by select tertiary institutions, like medicine which is provided by merely two medical schools in the territory, the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong and the Faculty of Medicine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In addition to the public post-secondary institutions there are also a number of private higher institutions which offer higher diplomas and associate degree courses for those who fail to enter a college for a degree study so as to boost their qualification of education, some of whom can have a second chance of getting into a university if they have a good performance in these sub-degree courses.[244][245]


Main article: Health in Hong Kong

There are 13 private hospitals and more than 40 public hospitals in Hong Kong.[246] There is little interaction between public and private healthcare.[247] The hospitals offer a wide range of healthcare services, and some of the territory's private hospitals are considered to be world class.[248] According to UN estimates, Hong Kong has one of the longest life expectancies of any country or territory in the world.[30] As of 2012, Hong Kong women are the longest living demographic group in the world.[31]

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.[249][250] Both have links with public sector hospitals.[249][251] 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.[252]


Ocean Park Hong Kong, a marine mammal park, oceanarium, animal theme park and amusement park in Hong Kong.
A statue of Bruce Lee on the Avenue of Stars, a tribute to the city's martial arts

Hong Kong is frequently described as a place where "East meets West", reflecting the culture's mix of the territory's Chinese roots with influences from its time as a British colony.[253] 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.[254] Other objects like Ba gua mirrors are still regularly used to deflect evil spirits,[255] and buildings often lack any floor number that has a 4 in it,[256] due to its similarity to the word for "die" in Cantonese.[257] 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.[258]

Hong Kong is a recognised global centre of trade and calls itself an "entertainment hub".[259] 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.[259] 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.[260]

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.[261][262]

Hong Kong has two licensed terrestrial broadcastersATV and TVB. There are three local and a number of foreign suppliers of cable and satellite services.[263] The production of Hong Kong's soap dramas, comedy series, and variety shows reach audiences throughout the Chinese-speaking world. Magazine and newspaper publishers in Hong Kong distribute and print in both Chinese and English, with a focus on sensationalism and celebrity gossip.[264] The media in Hong Kong is relatively free from official interference compared to Mainland China, although the Far Eastern Economic Review points 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.[265]

Hong Kong offers wide recreational and competitive sport opportunities despite its limited land area. It sends delegates to international competitions such as the Olympic Games and Asian Games, and played host to the equestrian events during the 2008 Summer Olympics.[266] There are major multipurpose venues like Hong Kong Coliseum and MacPherson Stadium. Hong Kong's steep terrain and extensive trail network with expansive views attracts hikers, and its rugged coastline provides many beaches for swimming.[267]


Main article: Sport in Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Sevens is considered the premier tournament on the IRB Sevens World Series rugby sevens competition and is held annually in Hong Kong on a weekend in late March.

Sports in Hong Kong are a significant part of its culture. Due mainly to British influence going as far back as the late 19th century, Hong Kong had an earlier introduction to Western athletics compared to other Asia regions. Football, cricket, basketball, swimming, badminton, table tennis, cycling and running have the most participants and spectators. In 2009, Hong Kong successfully organised the V East Asian Games. Other major international sporting events including the Equestrian at the 2008 Summer Olympics, Hong Kong Sevens, Hong Kong Marathon, AFC Asian Cup, EAFF East Asian Cup, Hong Kong Tennis Classic, Premier League Asia Trophy, and Lunar New Year Cup are also held in the territory. As of 2010, there were 32 Hong Kong athletes from seven sports ranking in world's Top 20, 29 athletes in six sports in Asia top 10 ranking. Moreover, Hong Kong athletes with disabilities are equally impressive in their performance as of 2009, having won four world championships and two Asian Championships.[268]


According to Emporis, there are 1,223 skyscrapers in Hong Kong, which puts the city at the top of world rankings.[269] 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),[270] 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.[271] 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.[28][29]

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.[272] The tallest building prior to the ICC is Two International Finance Centre, at 415 m (1,362 ft) high.[273] 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.[274] Also, Hong Kong's skyline is often regarded to be the best in the world,[275] with the surrounding mountains and Victoria Harbour complementing the skyscrapers.[276][277] 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.[278][279][280]

There are many development plans in place, including the construction of new government buildings,[281] waterfront redevelopment in Central,[282] and a series of projects in West Kowloon.[283] 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.[284] 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.


City view of Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the Hong Kong Skyline
Night time city skyline with Victoria Harbour in front and low hills behind
A panoramic view of the Hong Kong Island skyline at night, taken from Tsim Sha Tsui

See also


  1. The identity of Hong Kong Permanent Resident can be of any nationality. 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 7 years and has taken Hong Kong as his or her place of permanent residence are legally recognised as a Permanent Resident of Hong Kong. See "Right of Abode" of The Immigration Department of Hong Kong
  2. Section 3(2) of the Sino-British Joint Declaration states in part: "The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs which, are the responsibilities of the Central People's Government."
  3. Section 3(5) of the Sino-British Joint Declaration states that the social and economic systems and lifestyle in Hong Kong will remain unchanged, and mentions rights and freedoms ensured by law. Section 3(12) states in part: "The above-stated basic policies of the People's Republic of China … will remain unchanged for 50 years."
  4. The results of the 2011 census showed that the "white" population had increased from 36,384 in 2006 to 54,740 an increase of 50.4 percent.[212][213][214]



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Further reading


Coordinates: 22°18′N 114°12′E / 22.3°N 114.2°E / 22.3; 114.2

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