The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (中華人民共和國香港特別行政區), mostly referred to as Hong Kong (香港; pronunciation), is one of the two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China, the other being Macau. It usually participates in international events under the name, "Hong Kong, China".

Hong Kong consists of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories. The Kowloon Peninsula is attached to the New Territories in the north, and the New Territories are in turn connected to the mainland of China across the Sham Chun River (Shenzhen River). In total, Hong Kong has 236 islands in the South China Sea, of which Lantau is the largest and Hong Kong Island the second largest and most populated. The island of Ap Lei Chau is the most densely populated space in the world.

Hong Kong was a British crown colony until 1 July 1997, when it was returned to Chinese rule. Under the policy of the 'One Country, Two Systems', Hong Kong enjoys a considerable degree of autonomy from the Mainland, as well as continuing to have its own legal system, currency, customs, immigration authorities, and its own rule of the road, with traffic continuing to drive on the left, for example. Only national defence and diplomatic relations are responsibilities of the central government in Beijing.

Hong Kong Special Administrative
Region of the People's Republic of China
Flag of Hong Kong Hong Kong coat of arms
(Flag of Hong Kong) (Hong Kong coa large.png)
Official languages Cantonese and English
Chief Executive Donald Tsang (acting)
 - Total
 - % water
(Not ranked)
1,103 km²

 - Total
 - Density

(Not ranked)

6,845,400 (2003)

GDP (2003)

 - Total
 - Total
 - GDP/head
 - GDP/head

37th, 30th14th21st

US$199 billion (PPP)
$157 billion (Nominal)
$27,200 (PPP)
$23,592 (Nominal)


 - Date

Handover to the PRC

July 1, 1997

Currency Hong Kong dollar (HKD)
Time zone UTC +8 (AWST)
Internet TLD .hk
Calling Code 852 also 01 from Macau
Flower Bauhinia


Main article: History of Hong Kong

Although it was occupied at least since the Neolithic Age, the territory of today's Hong Kong remained distant from the major events unfolding in imperial China for most of its history. It began attracting worldwide attention in the 19th century.

Occupied by United Kingdom during the First Opium War in 1841, Hong Kong Island was formally ceded by China the following year under the Treaty of Nanking. Parts of the adjacent Kowloon Peninsula (south of Boundary Street), and the Stonecutter's Island were ceded to Britain in 1860 by the Convention of Peking after the Second Opium War. Various adjacent lands, known as the New Territories (including New Kowloon and Lantau Island) were then leased to Britain for 99 years from July 1, 1898 to June 30, 1997.

Pursuant to an agreement signed by the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the United Kingdom (UK) on December 19, 1984, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the whole territory of Hong Kong under British colonial rule became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the PRC on July 1, 1997.

In the Joint Declaration, the PRC promised that under the "One Country, Two Systems" policy proposed by Deng Xiaoping, the socialist economic system in China would not be practised in Hong Kong and Hong Kong's previous capitalist system and life-style shall remained unchanged for 50 years (until 2047). Hong Kong would enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign affairs and defence.

In 2003, concerns about the proposed anti-subversion bill that would have eroded freedom of the press, of religion and of association arising from Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23 and the unpopularity of Tung Chee Hwa and his officials, plus dissatisfaction about the poor state of the economy, prompted 1 million people to march on July 1, making it the largest protest aimed at mainland China ever in the history of Hong Kong.

In March 10, 2005, Tung Chee Hwa submitted to the State Council his resignation report as chief executive of the Hong Kong. Tung Chee Hwa left his post as HKSAR Chief Executive two days later, on March 12, 2005. Donald Tsang, the Chief Secretary for Administration of Hong Kong , is currently serving as acting Chief Executive following Tung Chee Hwa's resignation. The election of the new Chief Executive is expected to be held on July 10, 2005.


Main article: Politics of Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is headed by its Chief Executive, the head of government. This office is presently held by Donald Tsang Yam-Kuen as acting Chief Executive, who assumed duty on March 12, 2005 after the resignation of Tung Chee Hwa. Tsang had been Chief Secretary , since 2001. Before the handover, he served the British administration as Financial Secretary . The election of a new Chief Executive by the 800-member electoral college will proceed on July 10, 2005. Tung assumed office on July 1, 1997, following his election by a 400-member electoral college. For the second five-year term of the Chief Executive which began in July 2002, Tung was the only candidate validly nominated and declared elected unopposed. This made it unecessary to utilize the Election Committee to select the Chief Executive.

Hong Kong skyline, as seen from
Hong Kong skyline, as seen from Tsim Sha Tsui

The PRC set up a Provisional Legislative Council just before the handover, and moved to Hong Kong to have its meetings after the handover. It reverted some laws passed by the original Legislative Council, which was formed by means of universal suffrage. Also, it passed some laws which some say, stripped freedoms away from the Hong Kong people, for example, the Public Order Ordinance (In Chinese, 公安條例), which required permission from police to hold a demonstration where the number of people who participates exceeds 30. Legislative Council elections were held on May 24, 1998, September 10, 2000, and again on September 12, 2004, with the next scheduled for 2008. According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong's "Mini-constitution", the present third term of the Legislative Council has 30 seats directly elected from geographical constituencies, and 30 seats elected from functional constituencies. The 1998, 2000 and 2004 Legislative Council elections were seen as free, open, and widely contested, despite discontent among mainly 'pro-democracy' politicians, who contended that the functional constituency elections and the Election Committee elections (for 1998 and 2000) were undemocratic as they consider that the electorate for these seats is too narrow.

The civil service of Hong Kong maintains its quality and neutrality, operating without discernible direction from Beijing. Many government and administrative operations are located in Central on Hong Kong Island near the historical location of Victoria City, the site of the original British settlements.

The Right of abode issue sparked debates in 1999, while the controversy over Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23 was the focus of politics in Hong Kong between 2002 and 2003 culminating in a peaceful mass demonstration in July 1, 2003, after which the government was forced to indefinitely shelve the drafted law bring forth by the Article 23. The focus of controversies shifted to the issue of universal suffrage towards the end of 2003 and in 2004, which was the slogan of another peaceful mass demonstration in July 1, 2004.

Legal System and Judiciary

Main articles: Legal system of Hong Kong and Judiciary of Hong Kong

In contrast to mainland China's civil law system, Hong Kong continues to follow the common law tradition established by British colonial rule. Article 84 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong allows Hong Kong's courts to refer to decisions (precedents) rendered by courts of foreign jurisdictions and to invite foreign judges to participate in proceedings of Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal. Respecting court decisions from foreign courts is important because of the possibility that a judgment or award given in Hong Kong may have to be enforced in other countries such as Australia.

Inter-jursidictional proceedings are not uncommon in Hong Kong's court system. Many Chinese consider Hong Kong courts to be more "honest" compared to those in the mainland because the legal principles of rule of law and judicial independence are more entrenched and readily observed in the now former British colony. It is not strange to see mainland Chinese trying to launch their lawsuits in a Hong Kong court in hope of a more fair and predictable judgment.

Structurally, Hong Kong's court system consists of the Court of Final Appeal, which replaced the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the High Court , which is made up of the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance , and the District Court , which includes the Family Court . Other adjudicative bodies include the Lands Tribunal, the Magistrates' Courts, the Juvenille Court, the Coroner's Court, the Labour Tribunal, the Small Claims Tribunal, and the Obscene Articles Tribunal, which is responsible for classifying non-video pornography to be circulated in Hong Kong. Justices of the Court of Final Appeal are appointed by Hong Kong's Chief Executive. The current Chief Justice is the Honourable Mr. Justice Andrew Li Kwok-Nang .

As in England, lawyers in Hong Kong are made of barristers and solicitors where one can choose to practice as one or the other but not both. The vast majority of lawyers are solicitors who are licensed and regulated by the Law Society of Hong Kong. Barristers, meanwhile, are licensed and regulated by the Hong Kong Bar Association. Only barristers are allowed to appear in the Court of Final Appeal and the High Court. There are many established foreign law firms in Hong Kong, and foreign lawyers may apply to the Law Society for a special practising license. Just as the common law system is maintained, so are British courtroom customs such as the wearing of robes and wigs by both judges and lawyers. English and Chinese are the offical languages of the courts.


Main article: Districts of Hong Kong

A simulated-color satellite image of the and the former , both in Hong Kong, taken on 's .
A simulated-color satellite image of the Victoria Harbour and the former Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport, both in Hong Kong, taken on NASA's Landsat 7.

Hong Kong consists of 18 administrative districts:


Main article: Geography of Hong Kong

The name Hong Kong is derived from Hong Kong Island in the South China Sea, at the delta of the Zhu Jiang (or Pearl River) of southern China. Other territories that were later added include the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories, which include over 200 surrounding islands. Between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula is the Victoria Harbour, one of the finest deep water ports in Southern China. The landscape is fairly hilly to mountainous with steep slopes, the highest point being the Tai Mo Shan at 958 m, though lowlands exist in the north.

Hong Kong is on the east side of the Zhu Jiang Delta, while Macau (another Special Administrative Region of China) is on the west side. Besides that, Hong Kong borders the city of Shenzhen in the north.

Of the total of 1102 kmē of Hong Kong, only 25% is developed. The remaining 75% is set aside as country parks and nature reserves.

The local climate is that of a tropical monsoon clime. It is cool and dry in winter (Jan-Mar), hot and rainy from spring through summer (Apr-Sep), and warm, sunny and dry in the autumn (Oct-Dec). Hong Kong is visited by occasional typhoons.

See also: Ecology of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Country Parks & Special Areas


Main article: Economy of Hong Kong

Hong Kong Skyline, as seen from
Hong Kong Skyline, as seen from Victoria Peak

Hong Kong has a bustling economy highly dependent on international trade. It is one of the world's freest economies, as well as the world's 10th largest trading entity and 11th largest banking center. Natural resources are limited, and food and raw materials must be imported. Indeed, imports and exports, including re-exports, each exceed GDP in dollar value. Hong Kong has extensive trade and investment ties with the People's Republic of China, even before its reunification with China on July 1 1997. The service industry represented 86.5% of the GDP in 2001, and the territory, with a highly sophisticated banking sector, has housed the Asian headquarters of many multinational corporations in recent decades.

At a level of US$ 28,800 (2003 estimate) Hong Kong's per capita GDP compares with the level in the four big economies of Western Europe. It is ranked 15th in the world's top GDP - per capita category, outranking Japan (US $28,200), making Hong Kong the most richest territorial region in entire Asia continent in terms of GPD - per capita. The GDP of Hong Kong is valued at $213 billion (2003 estimate), and is ranked 39th in top economies in terms of purchasing power parity. GDP growth averaged a strong 5% in 1989-1997. The widespread Asian economic difficulties in 1998 hit this trade-dependent economy quite hard, with GDP down 5%. The economy, with growth of 10% in 2000, recovered rapidly from the Asian financial crisis. The recent global downturn has badly hurt Hong Kong's exports and GDP growth was 2.3% in 2002.

View of the central district of Hong Kong, from Victoria Peak
View of the central district of Hong Kong, from Victoria Peak

In early 2003, the local economy was hit hard by the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). On June 29, 2003, the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) was signed. CEPA allows Hong Kong service providers in 18 areas to enter the mainland market at least one year ahead of their foreign competitors. The arrangement provides a platform for Hong Kong professionals to practice on the mainland and also allows Hong Kong permanent residents to set up individually owned retail stores in Guangdong Province. GDP growth in 2003 was 3.2%.

On July 28, 2003, the Individual Visit Scheme was started to allow travellers from some cities in mainland China to visit Hong Kong on an individual basis. As a result, the tourism industry in Hong Kong is booming once again.

In 2004, the revival in both external and domestic demand led to a strong upswing in Hong Kong's GDP growth, which surged 8.2% for the year. The domestic sector had completely shrugged off its earlier sluggishness, and, on the competitiveness front, the general weakness of the Hong Kong dollar, coupled with still modest cost and price pressures in Hong Kong, resulted in a strenthening in Hong Kong's external price competitiveness. In addition, Hong Kong's 68-month long deflationary spiral ended in mid-2004, with consumer price inflation hovering at near zero levels towards the end of 2004.

See also: Hang Seng Index, Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office

External link: Index of Economic Freedom - The Heritage Foundation


Main article: Demographics of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is by population the fourth largest metropolitan area of the PRC (see List of cities in China). Considered as a "dependency", Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated countries/dependencies in the world, with an overall density of more than 6,200 people per km².

Despite the population density, Hong Kong was reported to be one of the greenest cities in Asia. The majority of people live in flats in high-rise buildings. The rest of the open spaces are often covered with parks, woods and shrubs. About 60% of the land is designated as Country Parks and Nature Reserves. Hiking and camping are popular outdoor activities in Hong Kong's hilly country parks. The irregular and long coastline of Hong Kong also provides many bays and fine beaches for its inhabitants. Environmental concern and awareness is growing, however, as Hong Kong ranks as one of the most (air-)polluted cities in the world.

Cantonese, the Chinese language used in Hong Kong government matters, is spoken by most of the local Chinese population at home and in the office. But English is quite widely understood; it is spoken, mostly at work, by more than one-third of the population. Every major religion is freely practised in Hong Kong. Ancestor worship is predominant due to the strong Confucian influence, whereas Christianity is practised by a mere 10% of the population.


Main article: Culture of Hong Kong

Miscellaneous topics

Major Landmarks

Main article: Hong Kong landmarks and tourist attractions

Universities and other tertiary institutions

See also: Education in Hong Kong

There are nine universities and various other tertiary institutions in Hong Kong.

Celebrities born or raised in Hong Kong

External links

Last updated: 10-18-2005 16:54:38
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