Hong Kong (香港, see Name section), alternatively known by its initials H.K., is one of the two Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, the other being Macau. It is situated on China’s south coast and, enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is known for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour. With a land mass of 1,104 km2 (426 sq mi) and a population of seven million people, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Hong Kong’s population is 93.6% ethnic Chinese and 6.4% from other groups. Hong Kong’s Cantonese-speaking majority originate mainly from the neighbouring Canton (now Guangdong) province, from which many of them fled to escape wars and Communist rule in China from the 1930s to the 1960s.
Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after the First Opium War (1839–42). The Hong Kong Island was first ceded to the UK in perpetuity, followed by Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 and then the New Territories was put under lease in 1898. It was occupied by Japan during the Pacific War (1941–45), after which the British resumed control until 1997, when China resumed sovereignty. The region espoused minimum government intervention under the ethos of positive non-interventionism during the colonial era. The time period greatly influenced the current culture of Hong Kong, often described as “East meets West”, and the educational system, which used to loosely follow the system in England until reforms implemented in 2009.
Under the principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong has a different political system from mainland China. Hong Kong’s independent judiciary functions under the common law framework. Hong Kong Basic Law, its constitutional document, which stipulates that Hong Kong shall have a “high degree of autonomy” in all matters except foreign relations and military defence, governs its political system. Although it has a burgeoning multi-party system, a small-circle electorate controls half of its legislature. The head of the government, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, is chosen by an Election Committee of 400 to 1,200 members, a situation that will be in effect during the first 20 years of Chinese rule.
Hong Kong is a world city. It is one of the Alpha+ cities. Also, a Time Magazine article in 2008 coined the phrase “Nylonkong”, which referred to New York City, London and Hong Kong, that these three cities form a global network that facilitates the global economy. As Hong Kong ranks the third most important leading international financial centre, after London and New York City, Hong Kong has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade, and the currency, Hong Kong dollar, is the eighth most traded currency in the world. The lack of space caused demand for denser constructions, which developed the city to a centre for modern architecture and the world’s most vertical city. Hong Kong has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. The dense space also led to a highly developed transportation network with the public transport travelling rate exceeding 90 percent, the highest in the world. Hong Kong has numerous high international rankings in various aspects. For instance, its economic freedom, financial and economic competitiveness, quality of life, corruption perception, Human Development Index are all ranked highly. According to estimates from both UN and WHO, Hong Kong had the longest life expectancy of any region in the world in 2012. Hong Kong also has the highest average IQ score in 81 countries around the world.
On 1 July 1997 the transfer of sovereignty from United Kingdom to the PRC occurred, officially ending 156 years of British colonial rule. Hong Kong became China’s first special administrative region, and Tung Chee-Hwa took office as the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong. That same year, Hong Kong suffered an economic double blow from the Asian financial crisis and the H5N1 avian influenza. In 2003 Hong Kong was gravely affected by the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The World Health Organization reported 1,755 infected and 299 deaths in Hong Kong. An estimated 380 million Hong Kong dollars (US$48.9 million) in contracts were lost as a result of the epidemic.
On 10 March 2005 Tung announced his resignation as Chief Executive due to “health problems”. Donald Tsang, the Chief Secretary for Administration at the time, entered the 2005 election unopposed and became the second Chief Executive of Hong Kong on 21 June 2005. In 2007 Tsang won the Chief Executive election and continued his second term in office. In 2009 Hong Kong hosted the fifth East Asian Games, in which nine national teams competed. It was the first and largest international multi-sport event ever held in the territory. Today, Hong Kong continues to serve as an important global financial centre but faces uncertainty over its future due to the growing mainland China economy and its relationship with the PRC government in areas such as democratic reform and universal suffrage.
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. Concepts like feng shui are taken very seriously, with expensive construction projects often hiring expert consultants, and are often believed to make or break a business. Other objects like Ba gua mirrors are still regularly used to deflect evil spirits, and buildings often lack any floor number that has a 4 in it, due to its similarity to the word for “die” in Cantonese. The fusion of east and west also characterises Hong Kong’s cuisine, where dim sum, hot pot, and fast food restaurants coexist with haute cuisine.
Hong Kong is a recognised global centre of trade, and calls itself an “entertainment hub”. Its martial arts film genre gained a high level of popularity in the late 1960s and 1970s. Several Hollywood performers, notable actors and martial artists have originated from Hong Kong cinema, notably Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and Jet Li. A number of Hong Kong film-makers have achieved widespread fame in Hollywood, such as John Woo, Wong Kar-wai, and Stephen Chow. Homegrown films such as Chungking Express, Infernal Affairs, Shaolin Soccer, Rumble in the Bronx, In the Mood for Love and Echoes of the Rainbow have gained international recognition. Hong Kong is the centre for Cantopop music, which draws its influence from other forms of Chinese music and Western genres, and has a multinational fanbase.
The Hong Kong government supports cultural institutions such as the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. The government’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department subsidises and sponsors international performers brought to Hong Kong. Many international cultural activities are organised by the government, consulates, and privately.
Hong Kong has two licensed terrestrial broadcasters – ATV and TVB. There are three local and a number of foreign suppliers of cable and satellite services. The production of Hong Kong’s soap dramas, comedy series, and variety shows reach audiences throughout the 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. 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.
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. 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.