Hong Kong

هنگ کنگ

ID:19836 Section: Place

Updated:Monday 13th October 2014

Hong Kong Definition

(Wikipedia) - Hong Kong This article is about Hong Kong as a special administrative region of China. For other uses, see Hong Kong (disambiguation).

Coordinates: 22°16′01″N 114°11′17″E / 22.267°N 114.188°E / 22.267; 114.188

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 Official languages Religion Demonym Government Legislature Establishment Area Population Currency Time zone Date format Drives on the Calling code ISO 3166 code Internet TLD
Flag Emblem
City flower Bauhinia blakeana (紫荊花)
Location of Hong Kong
Recognised regional languages Cantonese
Ethnic groups Chinese (93.6%) Others (6.4%)
Buddhism (21.3%) Taoism (14.2%) Christianity (11.8%) Islam (3.1%) Others (49.6%)
Hong Kong people Hongkonger Hong Kongese 香港人
SAR government
 -  Chief Executive CY Leung
 -  Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam
 -  Financial Secretary John Tsang
 -  Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen
Legislative Council
 -  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 the UK 1 July 1997 
 -  Total 1,104 km2 (179th) 426 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 4.58 (50 km2; 19 mi2)
 -  2014 estimate 7,234,800 (100th)
 -  Density 6,544/km2 17,024/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2014 estimate
 -  Total $404.892 billion (35th)
 -  Per capita $55,383 (7th)
GDP (nominal) 2014 estimate
 -  Total $302.814 billion (39th)
 -  Per capita $41,421 (25th)
Gini (2007) 43.4 medium
HDI (2013)  0.891 very high · 15th
Hong Kong dollar (HKD)
 -  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+8)
dd-mm-yyyy yyyy年mm月dd日
  • .hk
  • .香港
Chinese Cantonese Jyutping Cantonese Yale Hanyu Pinyin Literal meaning Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Cantonese Jyutping Hanyu Pinyin
Hong Kong
Fragrant harbour
Transcriptions Hakka Romanization Mandarin Hanyu Pinyin Wade–Giles IPA Min Hokkien POJ Wu Romanization Cantonese Jyutping IPA Yale Romanization
香港特別行政區 (or 香港特區)
香港特别行政区 (or 香港特区)
Hoeng1gong2 Dak6bit6Hang4zing3 Keoi1 (or Hoeng1gong2Dak6keoi1)
Xiānggǎng Tèbié Xíngzhèngqū (or Xiānggǎng Tèqū)
Transcriptions Hakka Romanization Mandarin Hanyu Pinyin Wade–Giles Min Hokkien POJ Wu Romanization Cantonese Jyutping
Hiông-kóng Thi̍t-phe̍t Hàng-tsṳn-khî (or Hiông-kóng Thi̍t-khî)
Xiānggǎng Tèbié Xíngzhèngqū (or Xiānggǎng Tèqū)
Hsiang1-kang3 T''e4-pieh2Hsin2-cheng4-ch''ü1 (or Hsiang1-kang3 T''e4-ch''ü1)
Hiong-kang Te̍k-pia̍t Hêng-chèng-khu (or Hiong-kang Te̍k-khu)
shian平kaon上 deh入bih入 ghan平tsen去chiu平 (or shian平kaon上 deh入chiu平)
Hoeng1gong2 Dak6bit6Hang4zing3 Keoi1 (or Hoeng1gong2Dak6keoi1)
Hong Kong map

Hong Kong (香港; "Fragrant harbour"), alternatively known as H.K. in short form, officially known as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People''s Republic of China, is a region on the southern coast of China geographically enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea. Hong Kong is known for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour, and with a land mass of 1,104 km2 (426 sq mi) and a population of over seven million people, 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 Guangdong province, from which many of them fled to escape wars and communist rule in mainland China from the 1930s to 1960s.

Despite presence of inhabitants in the area during Imperial China, the idea and reality of modern Hong Kong owes much to the 155-year British rule. Hong Kong was established as a colony of the British Empire after the First Opium War (1839–42). Hong Kong Island was first ceded to Great Britain 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 Second World War (1941–45), after which the British resumed control until 1997. The amalgam of British and Chinese culture during the colonial era shaped the current culture of Hong Kong. For example, the educational system followed the British model until 2009.

As a result of the negotiations and the 1984 agreement between China and Britain, Hong Kong was handed over to the People''s Republic of China and became its first Special Administrative Region on 1 July 1997, under the principle of "one country, two systems" (the other special region, Macau, attained that status when Portugal handed it over in December 1999). Hong Kong has a different political system from mainland China. Hong Kong''s independent judiciary functions under the common law framework. The Hong Kong Basic Law , the constitutional document drafted by the Chinese side before the handover based on the terms enshrined in the Joint Declaration, governs its political system, and stipulates that Hong Kong shall have a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign relations and military defence. Although it has a multi-party system, a small-circle electorate controls 30 out of 70 seats of its legislature, which was classified as flawed democracy with the lowest score in political rights among advanced economies.

Hong Kong is a world city and is one of the Al­pha+ cities. It has the largest income inequality among advanced economies. It also has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, and has a high Human Development Index and high international rankings in financial and economic competitiveness. As Hong Kong ranks as the third most important international financial centre, after London and New York City, it has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade, and the currency, the Hong Kong dollar, is the eighth most traded currency in the world. The limited space created demand for denser construction, which developed the city into a centre for modern architecture and the world''s most vertical city. The confined area has also led to a highly developed transportation network with the public transport travelling rate exceeding 90 percent, the highest in the world. Air pollution and smog is a serious problem with loose emission standards and a high level of atmospheric particulates compared to other advanced economies.

  • 1 Name
  • 2 History
    • 2.1 Pre-colonial
      • 2.1.1 Ancient China
      • 2.1.2 Voyages of discovery
    • 2.2 British Crown Colony: 1842-1941
      • 2.2.1 Free port
      • 2.2.2 Addition of Kowloon: 1860
      • 2.2.3 New Territories: 99 years of lease
      • 2.2.4 1900 to 1941
    • 2.3 Japanese occupation: 1941-45
    • 2.4 Resumption of British rule and Cold War era: 1945-97
      • 2.4.1 End to open border: the 1950s
      • 2.4.2 Water shortage in the 1960s
      • 2.4.3 Reform and renaissance: the 1970s
      • 2.4.4 Mass Transit Railway of Hong Kong
      • 2.4.5 Hong Kong''s future: the 1980s
    • 2.5 Since the Handover 1997
      • 2.5.1 Transfer of sovereignty
      • 2.5.2 Asian financial crisis, bird flu and SARS
      • 2.5.3 Resignations: Basic Law Article 23
      • 2.5.4 Sir Donald Tsang: 2005-12
      • 2.5.5 Political reform
    • 2.6 2014 Hong Kong protests
  • 3 Governance
    • 3.1 Legal system and judiciary
    • 3.2 Foreign relations
    • 3.3 Human rights
    • 3.4 Administrative districts
    • 3.5 Military
  • 4 Geography and climate
  • 5 Economy
    • 5.1 Infrastructure
  • 6 Demographics
    • 6.1 Education
    • 6.2 Health
  • 7 Culture
    • 7.1 Sport
    • 7.2 Architecture
  • 8 See also
  • 9 Footnotes
  • 10 References
  • 11 Further reading
  • 12 External links


The name "Hong Kong" is an approximate phonetic rendering of the pronunciation of the spoken Cantonese or Hakka name 香港, meaning "fragrant harbour". Before 1842, the name referred to a small inlet—now Aberdeen Harbour (香港仔 hoeng1gong2 zai2, "Little Hong Kong")—between Aberdeen Island and the south side of Hong Kong Island, which was one of the first points of contact between British sailors and local fishermen.

The reference to fragrance may refer to the harbour waters sweetened by the fresh water estuarine influx of the Pearl River, or to the incense from factories lining the coast to the north of Kowloon, which was stored around Aberdeen Harbour for export before the development of Victoria Harbour. In 1842, the Treaty of Nanking was signed, and the name Hong Kong was first recorded on official documents to encompass the entirety of the island.

The name was often written as the single word Hongkong until the government adopted the current form in 1926. Nevertheless, some century-old organisations still use the single-word form, such as the Hongkong Post, Hongkong Electric and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.

The Mandarin pronunciation of the name Hong Kong is represented in pinyin as Xiānggǎng. Unlike place names in Mainland China, which are now mostly romanised into English using (Mandarin-based) pinyin spelling, the official English name in this case remains the traditional Hong Kong.

The full official name is "Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People''s Republic of China", this being the official convention employed on the Chinese text of the Hong Kong regional emblem, the text of the Hong Kong Basic Law, and the Hong Kong Government website, although "Hong Kong Special Administrative Region" and "Hong Kong" are also accepted.

Hong Kong has many nicknames, but the most famous is "Pearl of the orient" (Cantonese: Dong Fong Chi Chu), reflecting the impressive city lights on both sides of Victoria Harbour, and the numerous high rise buildings.

History Main article: History of Hong Kong Pre-colonial Main articles: Prehistoric Hong Kong and History of Hong Kong under Imperial China

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

Wong Tei Tung and Three Fathoms Cove are the two 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 (Viets) to Hong Kong. Eight petroglyphs, which dated to the Shang dynasty in China, were discovered on the surrounding islands.

Ancient China

In 214 BC, Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, conquered the Baiyue tribes in Jiaozhi (modern Liangguang region) and incorporated the territory into imperial China for the first time. Modern Hong Kong was assigned to the Nanhai commandery (modern Nanhai District), near the commandery''s capital city Panyu.

The area of Hong Kong was consolidated under the kingdom of Nanyue (Southern Viet), founded by general Zhao Tuo in 204 BC after the collapse of the short-lived Qin dynasty. When the kingdom of Nanyue was conquered by the Han Dynasty in 111 BC, Hong Kong was assigned to the Jiaozhi commandery. Archaeological evidence indicates that the population increased and early salt production flourished in this time period. Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb on the Kowloon Peninsula is believed to have been built during the Han dynasty.

Under the Tang dynasty, the Guangdong (Canton) region flourished as a regional trading centre. In 736 AD, the first Emperor of Tang established a military stronghold in Tuen Mun, western Hong Kong, to defend the coastal area of the region. The first village school, Li Ying College, was established around 1075 AD in the modern-day New Territories under the Northern Song dynasty. During the Mongol invasion in 1276, the Southern Song dynasty, an extension to Northern Song, moved their court to Fujian. After their defeat by the Mongols, the Southern Song court moved to Lantau Island and to the modern-day Kowloon City (a place named Sung Wong Toi as a memorial), where the child Emperor Bing and his officials escaped by boat and were drowned following the defeat in the Battle of Yamen. Hau Wong, an official of the late emperor, is still worshipped by a small number of Hong Kong residents today.

Voyages of discovery

The earliest recorded European visitor was Jorge Álvares, a Portuguese explorer who arrived in 1513. After establishing settlements in the region, Portuguese merchants began trading in southern China. At the same time, they invaded Hong Kong and built up military fortifications in Tuen Mun. The subsequent military clashes between China and Portugal, however, led to the expulsion of all Portuguese merchants.

In the mid-16th century, the Haijin order (closed-door, isolation policy) was enforced and it strictly forbade all maritime activities and prevented contact between China and any foreigners by sea. This policy was effective since Chinese emperors had absolute powers over their citizens. From 1661 to 1669, Hong Kong was directly affected by the Great Clearance of Kangxi Emperor, who required the evacuation of coastal areas of Canton (Guangdong). About 16,000 people from Hong Kong and Bao''an County were forced to emigrate inland; only 1,648 of those who evacuated were said to have returned after the evacuation was rescinded in 1669.

British Crown Colony: 1842-1941 Main articles: British Hong Kong and History of Hong Kong (1800s–1930s)Flag of British Hong Kong from 1959–1997

In 1839, the refusal of the Qing dynasty authorities to sanction opium imports caused the outbreak of the First Opium War between Britain and China. After the defeat of China, Hong Kong Island was occupied by British forces on 20 January 1841 and was initially ceded under the Convention of Chuenpee, as part of a ceasefire agreement between Captain Charles Elliot and Governor Qishan. This agreement, however was never ratified due to a dispute between high-ranking officials in both governments.

It was not until 29 August 1842 that Hong Kong Island was formally ceded in perpetuity to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland under the Treaty of Nanking (1842). The British officially established a Crown colony and founded the City of Victoria in the following year.

British colonial coat of arms of Hong Kong, officially adopted in 1959

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 scattered along a number of 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.

Free port

The establishment of the free port turned Hong Kong into a major entrepôt, attracting new immigrants to settle from China and Europe alike. The society, however, remained racially segregated and polarised under the 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 the Victoria Peak.

At this time, the majority of the Chinese population in Hong Kong had no political representation in the British colonial government. There were, however, a small number of Chinese elites whom the British governors relied on, such as Sir Kai Ho and Robert Hotung. They served as communicators and mediators between the government and local population. Sir Kai Ho later became an unofficial member of the Legislative Council. Robert Hotung was a millionaire with huge financial influence in the Crown Colony.

Addition of Kowloon: 1860

Following further disputes with opium trade between Britain and China, several murders in the province of West Canton (Guangxi) quickly escalated into a full-scale war, the Second Opium War with Britain and France fighting against China. The Anglo-French victory expanded the Crown Colony to include the Kowloon Peninsula (south of Boundary Street) and Stonecutter''s Island. Both areas were ceded to the British in perpetuity under the Convention of Peking (1860).

Play mediaHong Kong filmed in 1937

According to the 1865 Census, Hong Kong had a population of 125,504, of which some 2,000 were Americans and Europeans. In 1894, the deadly Third Pandemic of bubonic plague spread from China to Hong Kong. It caused around 50,000 to 100,000 deaths in the Crown Colony. Almost 15% to 25% of the population vanished after the plague. In 1914, there was an exodus of 60,000 Chinese residents for fear of an attack on the British colony during the First World War. Nonetheless, Hong Kong''s population continued to increase from 530,000 in 1916 to 725,000 in 1925 and reached 1.6 million by 1941.

New Territories: 99 years of lease

In 1898, Britain obtained a 99-year lease from China from the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory, in which Hong Kong obtained a 99-year lease of Lantau Island and the area north of Boundary Street in Kowloon up to Shenzhen River. Governor Henry Arthur Blake oversaw the addition of the ''New Territories'', Lantau and Surrounding Islands in 1898.

1900 to 1941

In 1925, Cecil Clementi became the 17th Governor of Hong Kong. Fluent in Cantonese from his work for the British colonial government of Hong Kong during 1902 to 1912, and without a need for translator, Clementi introduced the first ethnic Chinese, Shouson Chow, into the Executive Council as an unofficial member. Under his tenure, Kai Tak Airport (the old Hong Kong International Airport) entered operation for the Royal Air Force (RAF) Hong Kong and several aviation clubs.

In 1937, the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out when the Japanese Empire expanded their 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. Falling ill to poor health, Northcote took a 6-month leave in October 1940 before returning to Hong Kong for another 6 months. With the Japanese armies looming close to Canton, Northcote completed his appointment in September 1941 and Sir Mark Aitchison Young succeeded him.

Japanese occupation: 1941-45 Main article: Japanese occupation of Hong KongHong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence

As part of the military campaign in East Asia and the Pacific, the Japanese Empire, ally of Germany and Italy, declared war against the British Crown Colony. Despite numerous petitions of Hong Kong to remain a neutral port during the Second World War, Japanese armies moved south from the City of Canton (Guangzhou) and crossed the Shenzhen River to enter Hong Kong on 8 December 1941.

The Battle of Hong Kong ended with the British and Canadian defenders surrendering control of the Crown Colony to Japan on 25 December 1941. This day was regarded by the locals as the Black Christmas Day.

Under the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, civilians 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. Through a policy of enforced repatriation of the unemployed to mainland China, the population of Hong Kong had dwindled from 1.6 million in 1941 to 600,000 in 1945, when Britain resumed control of the Crown Colony.

Resumption of British rule and Cold War era: 1945-97 Main articles: British Hong Kong, 1950s in Hong Kong, 1960s in Hong Kong, 1970s in Hong Kong, 1980s in Hong Kong and 1990s in Hong Kong

Hong Kong''s population recovered quickly after the war, as a wave of skilled migrants from China flooded into Hong Kong for refuge from the Chinese Civil War (1945-49). When the peasant communists gained control of Peking and removed the democractic Republic of China, even more skilled migrants fled to Hong Kong, across the open border, for fear of persecution. Many established corporations and small to medium businesses, especially those based in major port cities of Shanghai and Canton, shifted their base operations to British Hong Kong.

Development of Hong Kong Island in 1986End to open border: the 1950s

The Chinese communist party''s establishment of a socialist state in 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 military attacks from communist China. Border posts in the north of Hong Kong began operation in 1953 to regulate the movement of people and goods into and out of British Hong Kong.

In the 1950s, Hong Kong''s rapid industrialisation was driven by textile exports, manufacturing industries and re-exports of goods to China. As the population grew but labour costs remained low, living standards began to rise steadily. Corruption and ineffiency of public services, however, were widespread even among the police and firefighters. The construction of council housing, Shek Kip Mei Estate, in 1953 was a response to the massive slum fire in the same locality. This marked the beginning of the public housing estate programme in Hong Kong to provide shelter for the less privileged and cope with the influx of immigrants.

Water shortage in the 1960s

Between 1961 and 1964, droughts occurred for consecutive years in Hong Kong. The water supply from local reservoirs became insufficient due to low amounts of annual rainfall. Water rationing occurred in 1961, 1963 and 1964; the crisis became more severe in 1964, when water supply was available for 4 hours on every fourth day.

Reform and renaissance: the 1970s

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 the longest-serving governor and, by the end of his tenure, has become one of the most popular and well-known figures in the Crown Colony. MacLehose laid the foundation for Hong Kong''s elevated role across the globe: in the 1990s as the Pearl of the East, one of the three global financial centre (along with New York and London), a regional hub for logistics and port freight, a regional centre of films and pop songs, and one of the Four Asian Tigers (or Dragons).

A number of MacLehose''s most significant policies included:

  • 9 years of compulsory, free education for school-aged children
  • ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption (Hong Kong)) in 1974: eradicated corruption in public bodies, police force, firefighters and business corporations, which led to Hong Kong being regarded as one of the least corrupt cities during the 1990s
  • Social welfare protection: Jobseekers'' Allowance, Elderly Allowance, Disability Allowance, etc.
  • Home Ownership scheme
  • Labour reforms: paid holidays, redundancy payments, weekly rest days, tribunal courts
  • Rehaul of the healthcare system and construction of Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Queen Mary Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital and Prince of Wales Hospital
  • Adoption of Chinese, along with English, as an official language of British Hong Kong
  • Development of new towns, Sha Tin and Tuen Mun
  • Establishment of country parks to preserve 70% of Hong Kong''s green landmass

The British system of council administration was introduced to Hong Kong through the Urban Council and Regional Council, which have played a significant role in improving the sanitary conditions and developing numerous cultural and recreational facilities.

Mass Transit Railway of Hong Kong

To resolve traffic congestion and to provide a more reliable means of crossing the Victoria Harbour for commuters and residents, a rapid transit railway system (metro) 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.

Hong Kong''s future: the 1980s

After the devastating Cultural Revolution (1966–76), Deng Xiaoping, Chairman of the Communist Party of China, adopted an open-door policy to restore China''s damaged society, infrastructure and planned economy. Trade in Hong Kong, a booming port and financial city, accelerated even further when Shenzhen, a city to the immediate north of Hong Kong, was designated as a special economic zone by the Chinese government in the 1980s. Hong Kong was recognised by the communists as the main source of foreign investment in China.

Hong Kong''s competitiveness in manufacturing, however, gradually declined due to rising labour and property costs and the new development in southern China under the open-door policy. Nevertheless, Hong Kong successfully transitioned its economy into a service-based type, as evident in the high rates of growth during the 1980s and 1990s.

Facing the uncertain future of Hong Kong, Governor MacLehose raised the question in the late 1970s. The expiry of 1898''s Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory (Second Convention of Peking) in 1997 created problems for business contracts, property leases and confidence among foreign investors. In 1983, the United Kingdom reclassifed Hong Kong as a British Dependent Territory (now British Overseas Territory) when reorganising global territories of the British Empire. Talks and negotiations began with China and concluded with the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. Both countries to transfer Hong Kong''s sovereignty to the People''s Republic of 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 Basic Law, independent representation in international organisations (e.g. WTO and WHO), treaty arrangements and policy-making except foreign diplomacy and military defence. It stipulated that Hong Kong would be governed as a special administrative region, retaining its laws and a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years after the transfer. The Hong Kong Basic Law, which is based on English law, would serve as the constitutional document after the transfer. It was ratified in 1990.

Since the Handover 1997 Main articles: Transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong and 2000s in Hong KongGolden Bauhinia SquareTransfer of sovereignty

On 1 July 1997, the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People''s Republic of China took place; this significant event officially marked the end of Hong Kong''s 156 years under British colonial governance. As the last Crown Colony of the United Kingdom, loss of Hong Kong also represented the end of the British Empire. At the same time, Hong Kong switched countries overnight to become China''s first Special Administrative Region. Tung Chee-Hwa, a pro-Beijing business tycoon, was elected to be Hong Kong''s first Chief Executive under a televised managed election.

Asian financial crisis, bird flu and SARS

In 1997, Hong Kong suffered an economic double-blow from the Asian financial crisis and the pandemic of H5N1 bird flu; in December 1997, officials had to destroy 1.4 million chickens and ducks. 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.

Resignations: Basic Law Article 23

Distrust of the communist Chinese remained strong in the initial years of the former British Crown Colony. The Provisional Legislative Council of Hong Kong, which was unable to draft any new bills or authorise new legislation, expired in 1999. The Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo) resumed its full function after the 1999 LegCo election.

Despite the re-election of Tung (by means of managed voting) in July 2002, the government''s attempt to complete legislation of the Basic Law''s Article 23 (National Security) aroused strong suspicion among Hong Kong citizens. This was due to the Article granting the police force right of access to private property, under the reason of ''safeguarding national security'', without court warrants. Coupled with years of economic hardships and deflation following the Asian Financial Crisis, a peaceful yet powerful protest broke out on 1 July 2003. This hastened the resignations of two ministers and, eventually, that of Tung on 10 March 2005. Sir Donald Tsang, the 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 December 2005, Hong Kong hosted the WTO Ministerial Conference and became the place of fierce anti-globalisation demonstrations.

Sir Donald Tsang: 2005-12

In July 2007, Tsang won the Chief Executive election under managed voting and continued into his second term of office. In 2009, Hong Kong hosted the 5th East Asian Games, in which nine national teams participated in this sporting event. It was the first and largest international multi-sport event ever being organised and hosted by the city.

Political reform

Hong Kong''s political challenges and the uncertainty over its political future arising from interactions with China have caused fierce debate and social discontent.

2014 Hong Kong protests Main article: 2014 Hong Kong protests

Protests and mass civil disobedience began in Hong Kong in protest against the Chinese government''s decision on proposed electoral reform for the upcoming 2017 Hong Kong Chief Executive election. The Hong Kong Federation of Students and Scholarism began protesting outside the government headquarters on 22 September 2014.

Governance Main articles: Politics of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Government and Elections in Hong KongOpened 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.

Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy, as its political and judicial systems operate independently from those of mainland China. In accordance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and the underlying principle of one country, two systems, Hong Kong has a "high degree of autonomy as a special administrative region in all areas except defence and foreign affairs." The declaration stipulates that the region maintain its capitalist economic system and guarantees the rights and freedoms of its people for at least 50 years after the 1997 handover. The guarantees over the territory''s autonomy and the individual rights and freedoms are enshrined in the Hong Kong Basic Law, the territory''s constitutional document, which outlines the system of governance of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, but which is subject to the interpretation of the Standing Committee of the National People''s Congress (NPCSC).

The primary pillars of government are the Executive Council, the civil service, the Legislative Council, and the Judiciary. The Executive Council is headed by the Chief Executive who is elected by the Election Committee and then appointed by the Central People''s Government. The civil service is a politically neutral body that implements policies and provides government services, where public servants are appointed based on meritocracy. The Legislative Council has 70 members, 40 seats are directly elected by universal suffrage by permanent residents of Hong Kong according to five geographical constituencies and a District Council functional constituency. 30 seats from functional constituencies are directly elected by a smaller electorate, which consists of corporate bodies and persons from various stipulated functional sectors. The entire council is headed by the President of the Legislative Council who serves as the speaker. Judges are appointed by the Chief Executive on the recommendation of an independent commission.

The implementation of the Basic Law, including how and when the universal suffrage promised therein is to be achieved, has been a major issue of political debate since the transfer of sovereignty. In 2002, the government''s proposed anti-subversion bill pursuant to Article 23 of the Basic Law, which required the enactment of laws prohibiting acts of treason and subversion against the Chinese government, was met with fierce opposition, and eventually shelved. Debate between pro-Beijing groups, which tend to support the Executive branch, and the Pan-democracy camp characterises Hong Kong''s political scene, with the latter supporting a faster pace of democratisation, and the principle of one man, one vote.

In 2004 the government failed to gain pan-democrat support to pass its so-called "district council model" for political reform. In 2009, the government reissued the proposals as the "Consultation Document on the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive and for Forming the LegCo in 2012". The document proposed the enlargement of the Election Committee, Hong Kong''s electoral college, from 800 members to 1,200 in 2012 and expansion of the legislature from 60 to 70 seats. The ten new legislative seats would consist of five geographical constituency seats and five functional constituency seats, to be voted in by elected district council members from among themselves. The proposals were destined for rejection by pan-democrats once again, but a significant breakthrough occurred after the Central Government in Beijing accepted a counter-proposal by the Democratic Party. In particular, the Pan-democracy camp was split when the proposal to directly elect five newly created functional seats was not acceptable to two constituent parties. The Democratic Party sided with the government for the first time since the handover and passed the proposals with a vote of 46–12.

On 31 August 2014, China blocked moves by Hong Kong to move to full democracy, by ruling that only three candidates could run for elections as leader in 2017, and they would not be chosen by any process in Hong Kong, but by a nomination committee established by China.

Legal system and judiciary Main articles: Law of Hong Kong and Judiciary of Hong KongThemis or Lady Justice, armed with sword and balance scales (Legislative Council Building, Central, Hong Kong). She is the personification of justice balancing the scales of truth and fairness.

Hong Kong''s legal system is completely independent from the legal system of mainland China. In contrast to mainland China''s civil law system, Hong Kong continues to follow the English Common Law tradition established under British rule. The essence of English common law is that it is made by judges sitting in courts, applying legal precedent (stare decisis) to the facts before them. For example, murder is a common law crime rather than one established by an Act of Parliament. Common law can be amended or repealed by Parliament; murder, for example, now carries a mandatory life sentence rather than the death penalty. According to Article 92 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong''s courts may refer to decisions rendered by courts of other common law jurisdictions as precedents, and judges from other common law jurisdictions, most commonly England, Canada and Australia, are allowed to sit as non-permanent judges of the Court of Final Appeal.

Structurally, the court system consists of the Court of Final Appeal, 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 Juvenile Court, the Coroner''s Court, the Labour Tribunal, the Small Claims Tribunal, and the Obscene Articles Tribunal. Justices of the Court of Final Appeal are appointed by Hong Kong''s Chief Executive. The Court of Final Appeal has the power of final adjudication with respect to the law of Hong Kong as well as the power of final interpretation over local laws including the power to strike down local ordinances on the grounds of inconsistency with the Basic Law.

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. 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. As protector of the public interest, the department may apply for judicial reviews and may intervene in any cases involving the greater public interest. The Basic Law protects the Department of Justice from any interference by the government when exercising its control over criminal prosecution.

Foreign relations Main article: Foreign relations of Hong Kong

Hong Kong continues to play an active role in the international arena and maintains close contact with its international partners. Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong is exclusively in charge of its external relations, whilst the Government of the People''s Republic of China is responsible for its foreign affairs. According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong may on its own, using the name "Hong Kong, China", maintain and develop relations and conclude and implement agreements with foreign states and regions and relevant international organisations in the appropriate fields, including the economic, trade, financial and monetary, shipping, communications, tourism, cultural and sports fields.

As a separate customs territory, Hong Kong maintains and develops relations with foreign states and regions, and plays an active role in such international organisations as World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in its own right under the name of Hong Kong, China. Under such special status, Hong Kong''s international partners usually exercise particular policies to maintain relations with Hong Kong. Examples include United States-Hong Kong Policy Act.

There is a large foreign representation in Hong Kong, including 59 consulates-general, 62 consulates and 5 officially recognised international bodies, such as Office of European Union. Due to Hong Kong''s unique status, some consulates-generals operate as their own independent mission. For example, the US Consulate General to Hong Kong is not under the jurisdiction of the United States Ambassador to China, and reports directly to the US Department of State. The consulates-general of the United Kingdom also reports directly to the Foreign Office, instead of going through the British Embassy in Beijing, the Chinese capital.

Human rights Main article: Human rights in Hong Kong

Hong Kong''s Basic Law in general provides Hong Kong a high level of civil liberties. The Hong Kong government generally respects the human rights of its citizens, although core issues remain. There are concerns over the freedom of assembly which is restricted by the Public Order Ordinance. The police have occasionally been accused of using heavy-handed tactics toward protestors and there is controversy regarding the extensive powers of the police. As to the right of privacy, covert surveillance remains the major concern.

There is a lack of protection for gay men and lesbians due to the absence of a sexual orientation discrimination law, though there are currently no laws that criminalise homosexuality per se.

There are also comments regarding a lack of protection for labour rights.

Internet censorship in Hong Kong operates under different principles and regulations from those of mainland China.

Administrative districts Main article: Districts of Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a unitary system of government; no local government has existed since the two municipal councils were abolished in 2000. As such there is no formal definition for its cities and towns. Administratively, Hong Kong is subdivided into 18 geographic districts, each represented by a district council which advises the government on local matters such as public facilities, community programmes, cultural activities, and environmental improvements.

There are a total of 541 district council seats, 412 of which are elected; the rest are appointed by the Chief Executive and 27 ex officio chairmen of rural committees. The Home Affairs Department communicates government policies and plans to the public through the district offices.

Military Main article: People''s Liberation Army Hong Kong GarrisonThe Cenotaph commemorates those who died in service in World War I and World War II. Built in stone, it is an almost exact replica of the Cenotaph on Whitehall in London, UK (designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled in 1920).

When China assumed sovereignty in 1997 the British barracks were replaced by a garrison of the People''s Liberation Army, comprising ground, naval, and air forces, and under the command of the Chinese Central Military Commission. The Hong Kong Basic Law protects local civil affairs against interference by the garrison, and members of the garrison are subject to Hong Kong laws. The Hong Kong Government remains responsible for the maintenance of public order; however, it may ask the PRC government for help from the garrison in maintaining public order and in disaster relief. The PRC government is now responsible for the costs of maintaining the garrison.

Geography and climate Main articles: Geography of Hong Kong, Ecology of Hong Kong and Climate of Hong KongAreas 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 Shenzhen River. The territory''s 1,104 km2 (426 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, 1,054 km2 (407 sq mi) is land and 50 km2 (19 sq mi) is inland water. Hong Kong claims territorial waters to a distance of 3 nautical miles (5.6 km). Its land area makes Hong Kong the 179th largest inhabited territory in the world.

As much of Hong Kong''s terrain is hilly to mountainous with steep slopes, less than 25% of the territory''s landmass is developed, and about 40% of the remaining land area is reserved as country parks and nature reserves. Most of the territory''s urban development exists on Kowloon peninsula, along the northern edge of Hong Kong Island, and in scattered settlements throughout the New Territories. The highest elevation in the territory is at Tai Mo Shan, 957 metres (3,140 ft) above sea level. Hong Kong''s long and irregular coast provides it with many bays, rivers and beaches. On 18 September 2011, UNESCO listed the Hong Kong 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.

Despite Hong Kong''s reputation of being intensely urbanised, the territory has tried to promote a green environment, and recent growing public concern has prompted the severe restriction of further land reclamation from Victoria Harbour. Awareness of the environment is growing as Hong Kong suffers from increasing pollution compounded by its geography and tall buildings. Approximately 80% of the city''s smog originates from other parts of the Pearl River Delta.

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. Summer is when typhoons are most likely, sometimes resulting in flooding or landslides. Winters are mild and usually start sunny, becoming cloudier towards February; the occasional cold front brings strong, cooling winds from the north. The most temperate seasons are spring, which can be changeable, and autumn, which is generally sunny and dry. Hong Kong averages 1,948 hours of sunshine per year, while the highest and lowest ever recorded temperatures at the Hong Kong Observatory are 36.1 and 0.0 °C (97.0 and 32.0 °F), respectively.

Climate data for Hong Kong (Hong Kong Observatory) Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year Record high °C (°F) Average high °C (°F) Daily mean °C (°F) Average low °C (°F) Record low °C (°F) Rainfall mm (inches) Avg. rainy days (≥ 0.1 mm)  % humidity Mean monthly sunshine hours Percent possible sunshine
26.9 (80.4) 28.3 (82.9) 30.1 (86.2) 33.4 (92.1) 35.5 (95.9) 35.6 (96.1) 35.7 (96.3) 36.1 (97) 35.2 (95.4) 34.3 (93.7) 31.8 (89.2) 28.7 (83.7) 36.1 (97)
18.6 (65.5) 18.9 (66) 21.4 (70.5) 25.0 (77) 28.4 (83.1) 30.2 (86.4) 31.4 (88.5) 31.1 (88) 30.1 (86.2) 27.8 (82) 24.1 (75.4) 20.2 (68.4) 25.6 (78.1)
16.3 (61.3) 16.8 (62.2) 19.1 (66.4) 22.6 (72.7) 25.9 (78.6) 27.9 (82.2) 28.8 (83.8) 28.6 (83.5) 27.7 (81.9) 25.5 (77.9) 21.8 (71.2) 17.9 (64.2) 23.24 (73.83)
14.5 (58.1) 15.0 (59) 17.2 (63) 20.8 (69.4) 24.1 (75.4) 26.2 (79.2) 26.8 (80.2) 26.6 (79.9) 25.8 (78.4) 23.7 (74.7) 19.8 (67.6) 15.9 (60.6) 21.4 (70.5)
0.0 (32) 2.4 (36.3) 4.8 (40.6) 9.9 (49.8) 15.4 (59.7) 19.2 (66.6) 21.7 (71.1) 21.6 (70.9) 18.4 (65.1) 13.5 (56.3) 6.5 (43.7) 4.3 (39.7) 0.0 (32)
24.7 (0.972) 54.4 (2.142) 82.2 (3.236) 174.7 (6.878) 304.7 (11.996) 456.1 (17.957) 376.5 (14.823) 432.2 (17.016) 327.6 (12.898) 100.9 (3.972) 37.6 (1.48) 26.8 (1.055) 2,398.4 (94.425)
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
74 80 82 83 83 82 81 81 78 73 71 69 78.0
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
42 29 24 27 34 36 51 47 47 54 54 51 42
Source: Hong Kong Observatory (normals 1981–2010, extremes 1884–1939 and 1947–present)
Economy Main article: Economy of Hong KongThe Two International Finance Centre in Central, an integrated commercial development in Central

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. The currency, Hong Kong dollar, is the eighth most traded currency in the world as of 2010. Hong Kong was once described by Milton Friedman as the world''s greatest experiment in laissez-faire capitalism, but has since instituted a regime of regulations including a minimum wage. It maintains a highly developed capitalist economy, ranked the freest in the world by the Index of Economic Freedom every year since 1995. It is an important centre for international finance and trade, with one of the greatest concentrations of corporate headquarters in the Asia-Pacific region, and 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.

The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is the seventh largest in the world, with a market capitalisation of US$2.3 trillion as of December 2009. 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 and the easiest place to raise capital. The Hong Kong dollar has been pegged to the US dollar since 1983.

The Hong Kong Government has traditionally played a mostly passive role in the economy, with little by way of industrial policy and almost no import or export controls. Market forces and the private sector were allowed to determine practical development. Under the official policy of "positive non-interventionism", Hong Kong is often cited as an example of laissez-faire capitalism. Following the Second World War, Hong Kong industrialised rapidly as a manufacturing centre driven by exports, and then underwent a rapid transition to a service-based economy in the 1980s. Since then, it has grown to become a leading centre for management, financial, IT, business consultation and professional services.

Hong Kong matured to become a financial centre in the 1990s, but was greatly affected by the Asian financial crisis in 1998, and again in 2003 by the SARS outbreak. A revival of external and domestic demand has led to a strong recovery, as cost decreases strengthened the competitiveness of Hong Kong exports and a long deflationary period ended. Government intervention, initiated by the later colonial governments and continued since 1997, has steadily increased, with the introduction of export credit guarantees, a compulsory pension scheme, a minimum wage, anti-discrimination laws, and a state mortgage backer.

The territory has little arable land and few natural resources, so it imports most of its food and raw materials. Imports account for more than 90% of Hong Kong''s food supply, including nearly all of the meat and rice available there. Agricultural activity—relatively unimportant to Hong Kong''s economy and contributing just 0.1% of its GDP—primarily consists of growing premium food and flower varieties. Hong Kong is the world''s eleventh largest trading entity, with the total value of imports and exports exceeding its gross domestic product. It is the world''s largest re-export centre. Much of Hong Kong''s exports consist of re-exports, which are products made outside of the territory, especially in mainland China, and distributed via Hong Kong. Its physical location has allowed the city to establish a transportation and logistics infrastructure that includes the world''s second busiest container port and the world''s busiest airport for international cargo. Even before the transfer of sovereignty, Hong Kong had established extensive trade and investment ties with the mainland, which now enable it to serve as a point of entry for investment flowing into the mainland. At the end of 2007, there were 3.46 million people employed full-time, with the unemployment rate averaging 4.1% for the fourth straight year of decline. Hong Kong''s economy is dominated by the service sector, which accounts for over 90% of its GDP, while industry constitutes 9%. Inflation was at 2.5% in 2007. Hong Kong''s largest export markets are mainland China, the United States, and Japan.

As of 2010 Hong Kong is the eighth most expensive city for expatriates, falling from fifth position in the previous year. Hong Kong is ranked fourth in terms of the highest percentage of millionaire households, behind Switzerland, Qatar, and Singapore with 8.5 percent of all households owning at least one million US dollars. In 2011, Hong Kong was ranked second in the Ease of Doing Business Index, behind Singapore.

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

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). The MTR rapid transit system has 152 stations which serve 3.4 million people a day. Hong Kong Tramways, which has served the territory since 1904, covers the northern parts of Hong Kong Island.

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. 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.

Hong Kong - Kowloon Star Ferry

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. 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. 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. The Port of Hong Kong is a busy deepwater port, specialising in container shipping.

Hong Kong Island''s steep, hilly terrain was initially served by sedan chairs. The Peak Tram, the first public transport system in Hong Kong, has provided vertical rail transport between Central and Victoria Peak since 1888. In Central and Western district, there is an extensive system of escalators and moving pavements, including the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, the Mid-Levels escalator.

Hong Kong 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. 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. 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.

Demographics Main articles: Demographics of Hong Kong and Religion in Hong KongThe Big Buddha, on Lantau Island, Hong KongThe Wong Tai Sin TempleCathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Hong Kong

The territory''s population in 2011 is 7.07 million, with an average annual growth rate of 0.6% over the previous 5 years. Residents from mainland China do not have the right of abode in Hong Kong, nor are they allowed to enter the territory freely. 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". Life expectancy in Hong Kong is 79.16 years for males and 84.79 years for females as of 2009, making it one of the highest life expectancies in the world.

About 93.6% of the people of Hong Kong are of Chinese descent, 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. The remaining 6.4% of the population is composed of non-ethnic Chinese. There is a South Asian population of Indians, Pakistanis and Nepalese; 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. In 2008, there were an estimate of 252,500 foreign domestic helpers from Indonesia and the Philippines working in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong''s de facto official language is Cantonese, a Chinese language originating from Guangdong province to the north of Hong Kong. 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. Signs displaying both Chinese and English are common throughout the territory. Since the 1997 handover, an increase in immigrants from mainland China and greater integration with the mainland economy have brought an increasing number of Mandarin speakers to Hong Kong.

A majority of residents of Hong Kong would claim no religious affiliation, professing a form of agnosticism or atheism. According to the US Department of State only 43 percent of the population practices some form of religion. Some figures put it higher, according to a Gallup poll, 64% of Hong Kong residents do not believe in any religion, and possibly 80% of Hong Kong claim no religion. 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.

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. A Christian community of around 833,000 forms about 11.7% of the total population; Protestants forms a larger number than Roman Catholics at a rate of 4:3, although smaller Christian communities exist, including the Latter-day Saints and Jehovah''s Witnesses. 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. The practice of Falun Gong is tolerated.

Statistically Hong Kong''s income gap is the greatest 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". 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.

Education Main article: Education in Hong KongUniversity of Hong Kong

Hong Kong''s education system used to roughly follow the system in England, 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, 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. The Programme for International Student Assessment ranked Hong Kong''s education system as the second best in the world.

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. 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. Under the new curriculum, there is only one public examination, namely the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.

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.

There are eight public and one private universities in Hong Kong, the oldest being the University of Hong Kong (HKU), established in 1910–1912. The Chinese University of Hong Kong was founded in 1963 to fulfill the need for a university with a medium of instruction of Chinese. 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 only 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.

Health Main article: Health in Hong Kong

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

There are two medical schools in the territory, one based at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the other at the University of Hong Kong. Both have links with public sector hospitals. With respect to postgraduate education, traditionally many doctors in Hong Kong have looked overseas for further training, and many took British Royal College exams such as the MRCP(UK) and the MRCS(UK). However, Hong Kong has been developing its own postgraduate medical institutions, in particular the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine, and this is gradually taking over the responsibility for all postgraduate medical training in the territory.

Since 2011, there have been growing concerns that mothers-to-be from mainland China, in a bid to obtain the right of abode in Hong Kong and the benefits that come with it, have saturated the neonatal wards of the city''s hospitals both public and private. This has led to protest from local pregnant women for the government to remedy the issue, as they have found difficulty in securing a bed space for giving birth and routine check-ups. Other concerns in the decade of 2001–2010 relate to the workload medical staff experience; and medical errors and mishaps, which are frequently highlighted in local news.

Culture See also: List of Hong Kong filmsOcean 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. 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.

Sport Main article: Sport in Hong KongThe 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, 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 and was the biggest sporting event ever held in the territory. 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. Hong Kong athletes continue to strive for improvements, 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.

Architecture Main article: Architecture of Hong Kong See also: List of tallest buildings in Hong Kong

According to Emporis, there are 1,223 skyscrapers in Hong Kong, which puts the city at the top of world rankings. It has more buildings higher than 500 feet (150 m) than any other city. The high density and tall skyline of Hong Kong''s urban area is due to a lack of available sprawl space, with the average distance from the harbour front to the steep hills of Hong Kong Island at 1.3 km (0.81 mi), much of it reclaimed land. This lack of space causes demand for dense, high-rise offices and housing. Thirty-six of the world''s 100 tallest residential buildings are in Hong Kong. More people in Hong Kong live or work above the 14th floor than anywhere else on Earth, making it the world''s most vertical city.

As a result of the lack of space and demand for construction, few older buildings remain, and the city is becoming a centre for modern architecture. The International Commerce Centre (ICC), at 484 m (1,588 ft) high, is the tallest building in Hong Kong and the third tallest in the world, by height to roof measurement. The tallest building prior to the ICC is Two International Finance Centre, at 415 m (1,362 ft) high. Other recognisable skyline features include the HSBC Headquarters Building, the triangular-topped Central Plaza with its pyramid-shaped spire, The Center with its night-time multi-coloured neon light show; A Symphony of Lights and I. M. Pei''s Bank of China Tower with its sharp, angular façade. According to the Emporis website, the city skyline has the biggest visual impact of all world cities. Also, Hong Kong''s skyline is often regarded to be the best in the world, with the surrounding mountains and Victoria Harbour complementing the skyscrapers. Most of the oldest remaining historic structures, including the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower, the Central Police Station, and the remains of Kowloon Walled City were constructed during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

There are many development plans in place, including the construction of new government buildings, waterfront redevelopment in Central, and a series of projects in West Kowloon. More high-rise development is set to take place on the other side of Victoria Harbour in Kowloon, as the 1998 closure of the nearby Kai Tak Airport lifted strict height restrictions. The Urban Renewal Authority is highly active in demolishing older areas, including the razing and redevelopment of Kwun Tong town centre, an approach which has been criticised for its impact on the cultural identity of the city and on lower-income residents.

A view from Victoria Peak, looking north over Central, Victoria Harbour and Kowloon (2011). A view from Victoria Peak, looking north over Central, Victoria Harbour and Kowloon at night (2007).
City view of Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the Hong Kong SkylineA panoramic view of the Hong Kong Island skyline at night

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