Hong Kong

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 (traditional Chinese)
Jūng'wàh Yàhnmàhn Guhng'wòhgwok Hēunggóng Dahkbiht Hàhngjingkēui (Cantonese Yale romanisation)
City flower:
Location of Hong Kong within China
Official languages
Official scripts
Ethnic groups (2016)
Government Devolved executive-led system within a socialist republic
Carrie Lam
Matthew Cheung
Paul Chan
Teresa Cheng
Andrew Leung
Geoffrey Ma
National representation
36 deputies (of 2,924)
203 delegates[7]
Legislature Legislative Council
Special administrative region within the People's Republic of China
26 January 1841
29 August 1842
18 October 1860
9 June 1898
25 December 1941
to 30 August 1945

1 July 1997
2,755[8] km2 (1,064 sq mi) (168th)
 Water (%)
59.8 (1,649 km2; 637 sq mi)[9]
 2018 estimate
7,448,900[10] (100th)
6,777[11]/km2 (17,552.3/sq mi) (4th)
GDP (PPP) 2018[12] estimate
$482.101 billion (44th)
 Per capita
$64,533 (10th)
GDP (nominal) 2018[12] estimate
$364.782 billion (35th)
 Per capita
$48,829 (16th)
Gini (2016)  53.9[13]
HDI (2015)  0.917[14]
very high · 12th
Currency Hong Kong dollar (HK$) (HKD)
Time zone Hong Kong Time (UTC+8)
Date format dd-mm-yyyy
Drives on the left
Calling code +852
ISO 3166 code HK
Internet TLD

Hong Kong (Chinese: 香港; Cantonese: [hœ́ːŋ.kɔ̌ːŋ] ( listen)), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, is a specially administered territory on the eastern side of the Pearl River estuary in southern China. With over 7.4 million Hongkongers of various nationalities[lower-alpha 3] in a territory of 1,104 square kilometres (426 sq mi), Hong Kong is the fourth-most densely populated region in the world.

Hong Kong was formerly a colony of the British Empire, after Qing China ceded Hong Kong Island at the conclusion of the First Opium War in 1842.[16] The colony expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 after the Second Opium War and was further extended when Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories in 1898.[17][18] The entire territory was returned to China when this lease expired in 1997.[19] As a special administrative region, Hong Kong's system of government is separate from that in mainland China.[20]

Originally a lightly populated area of farming and fishing villages,[16] the territory has become one of the most significant financial centres and trade ports in the world.[21] It is the world's seventh-largest trading entity[22][23] and its legal tender, the Hong Kong dollar, is the 13th-most traded currency.[24] Although the city boasts one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, it suffers severe income inequality.[25]

The territory features the largest number of skyscrapers in the world, most of them surrounding Victoria Harbour.[26] It has a very high Human Development Index ranking and the seventh-highest life expectancy in the world.[8] Over 90% of its population makes use of well-developed public transportation,[27] but air pollution from neighbouring industrial areas of mainland China has resulted in a high level of atmospheric particulates.[28]


Hong Kong
"Hong Kong" in Chinese characters
Chinese 香港
Cantonese Yale Hēunggóng or Hèunggóng
Literal meaning Fragrant Harbour,
Incense Harbour[29][30]
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Traditional Chinese 香港特別行政區
Simplified Chinese 香港特别行政区
Cantonese Yale Hēunggóng Dahkbiht Hàhngjingkēui
(Hēunggóng Dahkkēui)
Hèunggóng Dahkbiht Hàhngjingkēui
(Hèunggóng Dahkkēui)

The name of the territory was first spelled as "He-Ong-Kong" in 1780,[31] and originally referred to a small inlet between Aberdeen Island and the southern coast of Hong Kong Island. Aberdeen was an initial point of contact between British sailors and local fishermen.[32] The source of the romanised name is not known, but it is generally believed to be an early phonetic rendering of the Cantonese pronunciation hēung góng. The name translates to "fragrant harbour" or "incense harbour".[29][30][33] "Fragrance" may refer to the sweet taste of the harbour's fresh water influx from the Pearl River or to the aroma from incense factories lining the coast of northern Kowloon. The incense was stored near Aberdeen Harbour for export before Victoria Harbour developed.[33] Sir John Davis, the second colonial Governor, offered an alternative origin, claiming that the name was derived from "Hoong-keang" (meaning "red torrent"), reflecting the colour of soil through which a waterfall on the island flowed.[34]

The simplified name Hong Kong was frequently used by 1810,[35] though it was also written as a single word. Hongkong was common until 1926, when the government officially adopted the two-word form.[36] Some corporations founded during the early colonial era still keep this name, including Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.[37][38]


The region is first known to have been occupied by humans during the Neolithic period, around 6,000 years ago.[39] Early Hong Kong settlers were a semi-coastal people[39] who migrated from inland regions and brought with them knowledge of rice cultivation.[40] The Qin dynasty incorporated the Hong Kong area into China for the first time in 214 BCE, after conquering the indigenous Baiyue.[41] The region was consolidated under the Nanyue kingdom (a predecessor state of Vietnam) following Qin collapse,[42] but recaptured by China after the Han conquest.[43] During the Mongol conquest, the Southern Song court was briefly stationed in modern-day Kowloon City (the Sung Wong Toi site) before the its final defeat at the Battle of Yamen in 1279.[44] By the end of the Yuan dynasty, seven large families had settled in the region and owned most of the land. Settlers from nearby provinces migrated to Kowloon throughout the Ming dynasty.[45] The earliest European visitor was Portuguese explorer Jorge Álvares, who arrived in 1513.[46][47] Portuguese merchants established a trading post called "Tamão" in Hong Kong waters and began regularly trading in southern China. Though these traders were expelled after military clashes in the 1520s,[48] Luso-Chinese trade relations were reestablished by 1549. Portugal later acquired a permanent lease for Macau in 1557.[49]

After the Qing conquest, maritime trade was banned under the Haijin doctrine. The Kangxi Emperor lifted the prohibition and allowed foreigners to enter Chinese ports in 1684.[50] Qing authorities established the Canton System in 1757 to more strictly regulate trade, restricting non-Russian ships to the port of Canton.[51] While European demand for Chinese commodities like tea, silk, and porcelain was high, Chinese interest in European manufactured goods was negligible. To counter this trade imbalance, the British sold large volumes of Indian opium to China. Faced with a drug crisis, Qing officials pursued ever more aggressive actions to halt the opium trade.[52] The Daoguang Emperor rejected proposals to legalise and tax opium, and instead ordered Imperial Commissioner Lin Zexu to eradicate the opium trade in 1839. The commissioner destroyed opium stockpiles and stopped all foreign trade,[53] forcing a British military response and starting the First Opium War. The Qing initially conceded early in the war and ceded Hong Kong Island in the Convention of Chuenpi. However, both countries were dissatisfied and did not ratify this agreement.[54] After over a year of further hostilities, Hong Kong Island was formally ceded to the United Kingdom under the Treaty of Nanking on 29 August 1842.[55]

Administrative infrastructure was very quickly built up by early 1842, but frequent piracy, endemic disease, and hostile Qing policies towards Hong Kong prevented the government from attracting merchants. The Taiping Rebellion improved the island's conditions, when many wealthier Chinese fled from the turbulent conditions of the mainland and settled in the colony.[16] Further tensions between the British and Qing over the opium trade escalated into the Second Opium War. The defeated Qing were again forced to give up land, ceding Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutter's Island in the Convention of Peking.[17] By the end of this war, Hong Kong had morphed from a transient colonial outpost into a major entrepôt. Rapid economic improvement in the 1850s attracted foreign investment, as potential stakeholders became more confident in the future of the colony.[56]

The colony was expanded further in 1898, when Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories.[18] The University of Hong Kong was established in 1911 as the territory's first higher education institute.[57] Kai Tak Airport entered operation in 1924 and the colony was able to avoid a prolonged economic downturn after the Canton–Hong Kong strike ended, which had lasted for more than a year from 1925 through 1926.[58][59] At the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, Governor Northcote declared Hong Kong a neutral zone to safeguard its status as a free port.[60] The colonial government prepared for a possible attack by evacuating all British women and children in 1940.[61] The Imperial Japanese Army attacked Hong Kong on 8 December 1941, on the same morning as the attack on Pearl Harbor.[62] The colony was occupied by Japan for almost four years, before Britain resumed control on 30 August 1945.[63]

Hong Kong's population recovered quickly after the war, as skilled Chinese migrants fled from the Chinese Civil War. Even more refugees crossed the border when the Communist Party took full control of mainland China in 1949.[64] Hong Kong became the first of the Four Asian Tiger economies to industrialise in the 1950s.[65] With a rapidly rising population, the colonial government started reforms to improve infrastructure and public services. The public housing estate programme, ICAC, and Mass Transit Railway were all established in the post-war decades to provide safer housing, a clean civil service, and more reliable transport.[66][67] The territory's competitiveness in manufacturing gradually declined due to rising labour and property costs, but it made a successful transition to a services-based economy. By the early 1990s, Hong Kong had established itself as a global financial centre and shipping hub.[68]

As the end of the New Territories lease drew closer, the colony faced an uncertain future and Governor MacLehose raised the question of Hong Kong's status with Deng Xiaoping in 1979.[69] Diplomatic negotiations with China resulted in the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984. The United Kingdom agreed to transfer the entire colony in 1997 and China would guarantee Hong Kong's economic and political systems for 50 years after the transfer.[70] The impending retrocession triggered a wave of mass emigration, as residents feared an erosion of civil rights, the rule of law, and quality of life.[71] Over half a million people in total left the territory during the peak migration period from 1987 until 1996.[72] Hong Kong was transferred to China on 1 July 1997, after 156 years of British rule.[19]

Immediately after the transfer of sovereignty, Hong Kong was severely affected by several crises. The government was forced to use substantial foreign-exchange reserves to maintain the Hong Kong dollar's currency peg during the 1997 Asian financial crisis,[64] but the recovery from this was muted by the H5N1 avian flu outbreak[73] as well as a housing oversupply crisis.[74] All of this was followed by the SARS epidemic in 2003, during which the territory suffered its most serious economic downturn.[75]

Political debates after the transfer of sovereignty have centred around the region's democratic development and the central government's adherence to the "one country, two systems" concept. After reversal of the last colonial era Legislative Council democratic reforms immediately following the handover,[76] the regional government unsuccessfully attempted to enact sweeping national security legislation pursuant to Article 23 of the Basic Law.[77] The central government decision to implement nominee pre-screening before allowing Chief Executive elections triggered mass protests in 2014, collectively known as the Umbrella Revolution.[78] Discrepancies in the electorate registry and disqualification of elected legislators following the 2016 Legislative Council elections,[79][80][81] as well as enforcement of national law in the West Kowloon high-speed railway station have raised extreme concern over the region's jurisdictional independence.[82]

Government and politics

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China with executive, legislative, and judicial powers devolved from the national government.[83] The Sino-British Joint Declaration provided for economic and administrative continuity through the transfer of sovereignty,[70] resulting in an executive-led governing system largely inherited from the territory's time as a British colony.[84] Under these terms and the concept of "one country, two systems", the Basic Law of Hong Kong is the regional constitution.[85]

The regional government is composed of three branches:

The Chief Executive is the head of government and serves for a five-year term, renewable once. The State Council appoints the Chief Executive after nomination by the Election Committee, which is composed of 1,200 prominent business, community, and government leaders.[92][93][94]

The Legislative Council has 70 members sitting for a four-year term:[95] 35 directly elected from geographical constituencies and 35 representing functional constituencies. 30 FC councilors are selected among limited electorates representing different sectors of the economy or special interest groups,[96] while the remaining 5 FC members are nominated from sitting District Council members and selected in region-wide double direct elections.[97] All popularly elected members are chosen using proportional representation. The 30 limited electorate functional constituencies fill their seats using first-past-the-post or instant-runoff voting.[96]

22 political parties had representatives elected to the Legislative Council in the 2016 election.[98] These parties have aligned themselves into three ideological groups: the pro-Beijing camp who form the current government, the pro-democracy camp, and localist groups.[99] The Communist Party does not have an official political presence in Hong Kong and its members do not run in local elections.[100] Hong Kong is represented in the National People's Congress by 36 deputies chosen through an electoral college and 203 delegates in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference appointed by the central government.[7]

Chinese national law does not generally apply in the region, and Hong Kong is treated as a separate jurisdiction.[91] The territorial judicial system is based on common law, continuing the legal tradition established during British rule.[101] Local courts may refer to precedents set in English law and overseas jurisprudence.[102] However, interpretative and amending power over the Basic Law itself and jurisdiction over acts of state lie with the central authority, making regional courts ultimately subordinate to the socialist civil law system of the mainland.[103] Additionally, decisions made by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress can override territorial judicial processes.[104]

Jurisdictional independence of the territory is most apparent in its immigration and taxation policies. The Immigration Department issues distinct passports for permanent residents different from those of the mainland or Macau.[105] The region also maintains a regulated border with the rest of the country. All travellers between Hong Kong and both China and Macau must pass through border controls, regardless of nationality.[106] Chinese citizens resident in mainland China do not have right of abode in Hong Kong, and are subject to immigration controls.[107] Public finances are handled independently of the national government and taxes levied in Hong Kong do not fund the central authority.[108][109]

The Hong Kong Garrison is responsible for the region's defence.[110] The President of China is supreme commander of the armed forces,[111] but the regional government may request assistance from the garrison.[112] Hong Kong residents are not required to perform military service and current law also has no provision for local enlistment, meaning that the defending force is composed entirely of non-Hongkonger personnel.[113]

The central government and Ministry of Foreign Affairs handle diplomatic affairs, but Hong Kong retains the ability to maintain separate economic and cultural relations with foreign nations.[114] The territory actively participates in the World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, International Olympic Committee, and many United Nations agencies.[115][116][117] The regional government maintains trade offices throughout Greater China and in other nations.[118]

Administrative divisions

The territory is administratively divided into 18 districts. A District Council represents each district and advises the government on local issues such as public facility provisioning, community programme maintenance, cultural promotion, and environmental policy.[119] There are a total of 479 seats in the District Councils, 452 of which are directly elected. Rural committee chairmen representing outlying villages and towns fill the remaining 27 seats.[120]

Political reforms and sociopolitical issues

Articles 45 and 68 state that the ultimate goal is for both the Chief Executive and all members of the Legislative Council to be selected by universal suffrage.[121] While the legislature is now partially directly elected, the executive continues to be selected by means other than direct election.[122] The government faces ongoing calls to introduce direct election of the Chief Executive and all Legislative Council members.[123] These efforts have been partially successful; the Election Committee no longer selects a portion of the Legislative Council.[124]

Ethnic minorities, excluding those of European ancestry, have marginal representation in government and are often discriminated against while seeking housing, education, and employment opportunities.[125][126] Employment vacancies and public service appointments frequently have language requirements, which minority job seekers frequently fail to meet, while language education resources remain inadequate for Chinese learners.[127][128] Foreign domestic helpers, predominantly women from the Philippines and Indonesia, have little protection under territorial law. Although residing and working in Hong Kong, workers of this class are not treated as ordinarily resident, barring them from eligibility for right of abode.[129]

The Joint Declaration guarantees the functioning of the Basic Law only for 50 years after the transfer of sovereignty.[70] It does not specify how Hong Kong is to be governed after 2047, and how the central government will determine the territory's system of government past this point is the subject of political debate and speculation. It is possible that Hong Kong's political and judicial systems will be reintegrated with China's at this date or the territory may continue to be administered separately for a further period of time.[130][131]


Hong Kong is located on the southern coast of China, 60 km (37 mi) east of Macau, at the mouth of the Pearl River estuary on its eastern side. It is surrounded by the South China Sea on all sides except its northern boundary, which neighbours the Guangdong city of Shenzhen along the Sham Chun River. The territory's 2,755 km2 (1,064 sq mi) area consists of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories, Lantau Island, and over 200 other offshore islands. Of the total area, 1,106 km2 (427 sq mi) is land and 1,649 km2 (637 sq mi) is water.[9] The territory's highest point is Tai Mo Shan, at 957 metres (3,140 ft) above sea level.[132] Urban development is concentrated on Kowloon Peninsula, Hong Kong Island, and in new towns located throughout the New Territories.[133] Much of this is built on reclaimed land, due to the lack of developable flat land; an area of 70 km2 (27 sq mi), representing 6 per cent of total land or about 25 per cent of developed space in the territory, is reclaimed from the sea.[134]

Undeveloped terrain is largely hilly to mountainous with very little flat land, consisting mostly of grassland, woodland, shrubland, or is used for agriculture.[135][136] About 40 per cent of the remaining land area is reserved as country parks and nature reserves.[137] The territory has a highly diverse ecosystem: over 3,000 species of vascular plants occur in the region, 300 of which are native to Hong Kong, as well as thousands of other insect, avian, and marine species.[138][139]


Hong Kong has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cwa), characteristic of southern China. Summer is hot and humid with occasional showers and thunderstorms, with warm air coming from the southwest. Typhoons most often occur in summer, sometimes resulting in flooding or landslides. Winters are mild and usually start sunny, becoming cloudier towards February; the occasional cold front brings strong, cooling winds from the north. The most temperate seasons are spring, which can be changeable, and autumn, which is generally sunny and dry.[140] Snowfall is extremely rare, and usually occurs in areas of high elevation. Hong Kong averages 1,709 hours of sunshine per year,[141] while the highest and lowest ever recorded temperatures at the Hong Kong Observatory are 36.6 °C (97.9 °F) on 22 August 2017 and 0.0 °C (32.0 °F) on 18 January 1893, respectively.[142] The highest and lowest ever recorded temperatures across all of Hong Kong, on the other hand, are 39.0 °C (102 °F) at Wetland Park on 22 August 2017[143] and −6.0 °C (21.2 °F) at Tai Mo Shan on 24 January 2016, respectively.


Hong Kong boasts the highest number of skyscrapers, with 317 towers taller than 150 metres (490 ft),[26] and the third-most high-rise buildings in the world.[146] A lack of available sprawl space restricted development to high-density residential tenements and commercial complexes packed closely together on areas of improvable land.[147] Single-family detached homes are extremely rare and generally only found in outlying areas.[148]

The International Commerce Centre and Two International Finance Centre are the tallest buildings in Hong Kong and among the tallest in the Asia-Pacific region.[149] Other distinct towers line the Hong Kong Island skyline, including the HSBC Main Building, the anemometer-topped triangular Central Plaza, the circular Hopewell Centre, and the sharp-edged Bank of China Tower.[150][151]

High demand for new construction has contributed to frequent demolition of older buildings, freeing space for the development of modern architecture high-rises.[152] Despite this, many examples of European and Lingnan architecture can be found throughout the territory. Older government installations are enduring examples of colonial architecture. Flagstaff House, the former residence of the commanding British military officer, was built in 1846 and is the oldest Western-style building in Hong Kong.[153] Some remain used in their originally intended functions, including the Court of Final Appeal Building and the Hong Kong Observatory, while others have been modified for adaptive reuse; the Former Marine Police Headquarters was extensively redeveloped into a commercial and retail complex[154] and Béthanie, built in 1875 as a sanatorium, currently houses the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.[155] The Tin Hau Temple, dedicated to the sea goddess Mazu and originally constructed in 1012 then rebuilt in 1266, is the oldest standing structure in the territory.[156] The Ping Shan Heritage Trail contains architectural examples from several dynastic eras of imperial China, including the Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda, the only remaining pagoda in Hong Kong.[157]

Tong lau, describing mixed-use tenement buildings constructed during the colonial era, blended southern Chinese architectural styles with European influences. These were especially prolific during the immediate post-war period, when many were rapidly constructed to house large numbers of migrants from China.[158] Examples of this mixed style include Lui Seng Chun, the Blue House in Wan Chai, and the Shanghai Street shophouses in Mong Kok. Mass-produced public housing estates constructed from the 1960s on were largely built in the modernist style.[159]

City view of Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, and the Hong Kong skyline


The Census and Statistics Department estimated the population to be 7,448,900 people as of mid-2018.[10] The overwhelming majority (92%) of the population is Han Chinese,[6] the majority of whom are Taishanese, Teochew, Hakka, and a variety of other Cantonese peoples.[160][161][162] The remaining 8% is composed of non-ethnic Chinese minorities, mostly Filipinos, Indonesians, and South Asians.[6][163] About half of the population has some form of British nationality, a legacy of colonial rule. 3.4 million residents hold British National (Overseas) status and a further 260,000 British citizens reside in the territory.[164] The vast majority of them also hold Chinese nationality, which was automatically granted to all Chinese residents at the transfer of sovereignty.[165]

The predominant language is Cantonese, a variety of Chinese originating in Guangdong. 94.6% of the population speak Cantonese, 88.9% as a first language and 5.7% as a second language.[166] Slightly over half of the population (53.2%) speaks English, the other official language,[3] though only 4.3% use it natively and 48.9% as a second language.[166] Code-switching is common among the bilingual population, mixing English and Cantonese in informal conversation.[167] Post-handover governments have promoted Mandarin, which is now about as prevalent as English; 48.6% of the population can speak it, with 1.9% using it as a first language and 46.7% as a second language.[166] Traditional Chinese characters are used in writing, rather than the simplified characters used in the mainland.[168]

Among the religious population, the traditional "three teachings" of China (Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism) have the most adherents (20%), followed by Christianity (12%), and Islam (4%).[169] Followers of other religions, including Sikhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and the Bahá'í Faith, generally ethnically originate from the same region as their faith.[169]

Of residents aged 15 and older, 81.3% completed lower secondary schooling, 66.4% graduated from upper secondary, 31.6% attended a non-degree tertiary program, and 24% earned a bachelor's degree or higher.[170] Mandatory education has contributed to an adult literacy rate of 95.7%.[171] While comparatively lower than that of other developed economies, this rate is due to the influx of refugees from mainland China during the post-war colonial era. Much of the elderly population were not formally educated as a result of war and poverty.[172][173]

Life expectancy in Hong Kong is 81.7 years for males and 87.7 years for females as of 2017, making it the seventh-highest in the world.[8][10] Cancer, pneumonia, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and severe injuries caused by accidents are the five leading causes of death in the territory.[174] The universal public system is funded by general tax revenue and treatment is highly subsidised; on average, 95 per cent of healthcare costs is covered by the government.[175]

Income inequality has risen since the transfer of sovereignty, as the region's ageing population has gradually added to the number of economically inactive people.[176] While median household income has steadily increased in the last decade, the wage gap remains high.[177] The 90th percentile of earners receives 41 per cent of all income.[177] The city also has the most billionaires per capita, with one per 109,657 people.[178] Despite government efforts to reduce the growing disparity,[179] median income for the top 10 per cent of earners is 44 times that of the bottom 10 per cent.[180][181]


Hong Kong has a capitalist mixed service economy, characterised by low taxation, minimal government market intervention, and an established international financial market.[182] It is the 35th-largest economy in the world, with a nominal GDP of approximately US$364 billion.[12] Hong Kong's economy has consistently ranked at the top of the Heritage Foundation's index of economic freedom since 1995,[183][184] but the territory suffers from a relatively high level of income disparity.[13] The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is the seventh largest in the world and has a market capitalisation of US$4.3 trillion as of December 2017.[185]

Hong Kong is the seventh largest trading entity in both exports and imports, trading more goods in value than its gross domestic product.[22][23] Over half of its cargo throughput consists of transshipments, or goods travelling through Hong Kong. Products from mainland China alone account for about 40 per cent of that traffic.[186] The city's location allowed it to establish a transportation and logistics infrastructure system that includes the fifth busiest container port in the world[186] and the busiest airport for international cargo.[187] The territory's largest export markets are mainland China and the United States.[8]

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 per cent of Hong Kong's food supply, including nearly all the meat and rice available there.[188] Agricultural activity outputs a marginal 0.1% of GDP, consisting of growing premium food and flower varieties.[189]

While the territory boasted one of the largest manufacturing economies in Asia during the latter half of the colonial era, Hong Kong's economy is now dominated by the services sector. Services alone constitute 92.7 per cent of economic output, with the public sector accounting for about 10 per cent.[190] Between 1961 and 1997, Hong Kong's gross domestic product multiplied by a factor of 180, while per-capita GDP increased 87 times over.[191][192] The territory's GDP relative to mainland China's peaked at 27 per cent in 1993, but this has since fallen significantly as the mainland developed and liberalised its economy, declining to less than 3 per cent in 2017.[193]

Economic and infrastructure integration with China has increased significantly from the start of market liberalisation in the mainland in 1978. Since resumption of cross-boundary train service in 1979, many rail and road links have been improved and constructed, facilitating trade between the regions.[194][195] The Closer Partnership Economic Arrangement formalised a policy of free trade between the two areas. Each jurisdiction pledged to remove remaining obstacles to trade and cross-boundary investments.[196] A similar economic partnership arrangement with Macau also details liberalisation of trade and deregulation of the movement of goods and services between the two special administrative regions.[197] Chinese companies have greatly expanded their economic presence in the territory since the transfer of sovereignty. Mainland firms now represent over half of the Hang Seng Index value, up from 5 per cent in 1997.[198][199]

As the mainland liberalised its economy, Hong Kong's shipping industry faced severe competition from other Chinese ports. While 50 per cent of China's trade goods were routed through Hong Kong in 1997, that figure dropped to about 13 per cent by 2015.[200] Conversely, the territory's minimal taxation, common law system, and effective civil service attract overseas corporations looking to establish a presence in Asia.[200] The city hosts the second highest number of corporate headquarters in the Asia-Pacific region.[201] Additionally, Hong Kong is a gateway for foreign direct investment into China. Investors have open access to mainland Chinese markets through direct links with the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges. The territory was the first market outside of mainland China for renminbi-denominated bonds and remains one of the largest hubs for offshore renminbi trading.[202]

The government traditionally adopted a passive role in the economy. Colonial governments had little by way of industrial policy and implemented almost no trade controls. Under the doctrine of "positive non-interventionism", post-war administrations deliberately avoided directly allocating productive resources. Active intervention was thought to be detrimental to economic growth.[203] While the economy transitioned to become services-based in the 1980s,[203] late colonial governments steadily introduced interventionist policies. Post-handover administrations continued and expanded on these programmes, including export credit guarantees, a compulsory pension scheme, a minimum wage, anti-discrimination laws, and a state mortgage backer.[204]

Tourism forms a major part of the economy, accounting for 5% of GDP.[154] 26.6 million visitors contributed US$32.9 billion to the territory in 2016, making Hong Kong the 14th most popular destination for international tourists. It is also the most popular city for tourists, receiving over 70 per cent more visitors than its closest competitor, Macau.[205] The city is further consistently ranked as one of the most expensive cities for expatriates.[206][207]



Hong Kong has a highly developed and sophisticated transport network. Over 90% of daily journeys are made on public transport, the highest such percentage in the world.[27] The Octopus card, a contactless smart payment card, is widely accepted on railways, buses, and ferries, and can be used for payment in most retail stores.[208]

The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is an extensive passenger railway network, connecting 93 metro stations throughout the territory.[209] With a daily ridership of over five million, the system serves 41% of all public transit passengers in the city[210] and is extremely punctual, achieving an on-time rate of 99.9%.[211] Cross-boundary train service to Shenzhen is offered by the East Rail line and longer distance inter-city trains to Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing are operated from Hung Hom Station.[212] Connecting service to the national high-speed rail system is scheduled to begin in 2018, after construction of West Kowloon Station completes.[213]

While public transport systems handle the majority of passenger traffic, there are over 500,000 private vehicles licensed in Hong Kong.[214] Automobiles drive on the left, unlike in mainland China, due to historical influence from the British Empire.[215] Vehicle traffic is extremely congested in urban areas, exacerbated by limited space to expand roads and a growing number of vehicles.[216] More than 18,000 taxicabs, easily identifiable by their bright paint, are licensed to carry riders in the territory.[217] Bus services operate more than 700 routes across the territory,[210] with smaller public light buses (also called minibuses) complementing them by serving areas where standard buses cannot reach or do not operate in as frequently or directly.[218] Highways are organised as the Hong Kong Strategic Route and Exit Number System, connecting all major geographic areas of the territory.[219] When completed, the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macao Bridge will create a direct route to the western side of the Pearl River estuary.[195]

Hong Kong International Airport is the primary airport for the territory. Over 100 airlines operate flights from the airport, including locally based Cathay Pacific (flag carrier), Hong Kong Airlines, Regional carrier Cathay Dragon, and cargo airline Air Hong Kong.[220] It is the eighth-busiest airport by passenger traffic[221] and also handles the most air cargo traffic in the world.[222] The majority of private recreational aviation traffic flies through Shek Kong Airfield under supervision of the Hong Kong Aviation Club.[223]

The Star Ferry operates two lines across Victoria Harbour for its 53,000 daily passengers.[224] Ferries also serve outlying islands inaccessible by other means. Smaller kai-to boats serve the most remote coastal settlements.[225] Cross-boundary travel to Macau and mainland China is available by ferry as well.[226] Junk ships, once commonplace in Hong Kong waters, are no longer widely available for transport and are currently used for tourism and private use.[227]

The Peak Tram, the first public transport system in Hong Kong, has provided vertical rail transport between Central and Victoria Peak since 1888.[228] In the Central and Western District, there is an extensive system of escalators and moving pavements, including the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, the Mid-Levels escalator.[229] Hong Kong Tramways covers a portion of Hong Kong Island. The MTR operates the Light Rail system serving the northwestern New Territories.[209]


Hong Kong imports almost all its generated electricity and fuel.[230] The vast majority of this energy comes from fossil fuels, with 46% from coal and 47% from petroleum.[231] The rest is from other imports, including nuclear energy generated on the mainland.[232] Renewable sources only account for a negligible amount of total energy generated for the territory.[233] Wind power sources have been developed at very low scale,[230] and a small number of private homes have deployed solar panels for residential use.[234]

With few natural lakes and rivers, a high population density, inaccessible groundwater sources, and extremely seasonal rainfall, the territory does not have a reliable source of fresh water. The Dongjiang River in Guangdong supplies 70% of the city's water,[235] while the remaining demand is filled by harvesting rainwater.[236] Toilets flush using seawater, greatly reducing freshwater usage.[235]

Broadband Internet access is widely available, with 92.6% of households connected. Connections over fibre-optic infrastructure are increasingly prevalent,[237] contributing to the high regional average connection speed of 21.9 Mbit/s, ranked fourth in the world.[238] Mobile phone usage in Hong Kong is ubiquitous;[239] there are more than 18 million active mobile phone subscribers,[240] more than double the total number of residents in the territory.[10]


Hong Kong is often characterised as a hybrid of East and West. Traditional Chinese values emphasising family and education are blended with progressive Western ideals, including economic liberty and the rule of law.[241] Though the vast majority of the population is ethnically Chinese, Hong Kong has developed a distinct identity. The territory diverged from the mainland due to the long period of colonial administration and a differing pace of economic, social, and cultural development. Mainstream culture is derived from immigrants originating from various parts of China. This was influenced by British-style education, a separate political system, and the territory's rapid development during the late 20th century.[242][243] Most incoming migrants were fleeing poverty and war, which is reflected in the way that people in Hong Kong today view wealth, tending to quite closely tie self-image and decision-making to material benefits.[244][245]

Traditional Chinese family values are prevalent among the population. These include preference for sons, family honor, and filial piety.[246] Nuclear families are the most common households, but multi-generational and extended families are not unusual.[247] Spiritual concepts like feng shui are very seriously considered. Large-scale construction projects often hire consultants to ensure proper building positioning and layouts. The degree of adherence to feng shui is believed to determine the success of a business.[150] Bagua mirrors are regularly used to deflect evil spirits[248] and buildings often lack floor numbers with a 4 in them;[249] the number has a similar sound to the word for "die" in Cantonese.[250]


Left: typical fare at a dim sum restaurant. Right: cha chaan teng breakfast food with Hong Kong-style milk tea.

Food in Hong Kong is primarily based on Cantonese cuisine, despite the territory's sustained exposure to foreign influences and many residents with varied origins. Rice is the primary staple food and is usually served plain with other dishes.[251] Freshness of ingredients is particularly emphasised. Poultry and seafood are commonly sold live at wet markets and ingredients are used as quickly as possible.[252] There are five mealtimes: breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and siu yeh.[253] Dim sum, usually served from breakfast to lunch, is a central aspect of local cuisine. Large groups of family and friends gather to yum cha, the social tradition of gathering to dine at a teahouse or restaurant. Characteristic dishes include congee, cha siu bao, siu yuk, egg tarts, and mango pudding. Local interpretations of Western food are served at fast, casual restaurants called cha chaan teng. Common menu items at these restaurants include macaroni in soup, deep-fried French toast, and Hong Kong-style milk tea.[251]


Hong Kong developed into a major filmmaking hub in the late 1940s, as a wave of Shanghai filmmakers migrated to the territory. These movie veterans helped rebuild the colony's entertainment industry through the next decade.[254] By the 1960s, the city itself was already well known to overseas audiences through foreign films like The World of Suzie Wong.[255] But it was not until the 1972 release of the Bruce Lee film Way of the Dragon that local productions became popular outside of Hong Kong. Building on this momentum, films in the 1980s including A Better Tomorrow, As Tears Go By, and Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain expanded global interest beyond martial arts films. Locally made gangster movies, romantic dramas, and supernatural fantasies became hugely popular.[256] Hong Kong cinema in the 1990s continued to find international success through critically acclaimed dramatic pictures such as Farewell My Concubine, To Live, and Chungking Express. Nevertheless, the city's film industry roots in martial arts can often be observed through the roles of the most prolific Hong Kong actors. Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Chow Yun-fat, and Michelle Yeoh frequently star in action-oriented parts when featured in foreign films. At the height of the local movie industry in the early 1990s, over 400 films were produced each year. Since then, industry momentum shifted towards mainland China. The annual number of films produced has declined significantly, to around 60 in 2017.[257]


Leslie Cheung (left) is considered one of the pioneering artists of the Cantopop genre. Andy Lau (right), as a member of the Four Heavenly Kings, has been a perennial icon in Hong Kong music and film for the past several decades.

Cantopop is the genre of Cantonese popular music that emerged in Hong Kong during the 1970s. This musical style evolved from Shanghai-style shidaiqu, influenced by Cantonese opera and Western pop as well.[258] Overseas popularity of Hong Kong films and dramas allowed Cantopop to capture large followings. Local media featured songs performed by artists such as Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung, and Alan Tam. Throughout the 1980s, these movies and shows were exported outside of the territory and exposed Cantopop to a global audience.[259] The genre continued to enjoy peak popularity in the 1990s as the Four Heavenly Kings dominated record charts throughout Asia.[260] Despite a general decline since the late 1990s,[261] Cantopop remains dominant in Hong Kong today. More recent contemporary artists such as Eason Chan, Joey Yung, and Twins continue to be popular within and outside the territory.[262]

Western classical music has historically had a strong presence in Hong Kong, and remains a large part of local musical education.[263] The publicly-funded Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra is the territory's oldest professional symphony orchestra and frequently host musicians and conductors from overseas. The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, composed solely of classical Chinese instrumentation, is the leading Chinese ensemble counterpart and plays a large role in promoting traditional music in the local community.[264]

Sport and recreation

Despite its small area, the territory is home to a wide range of sports and recreational facilities. Hong Kong maintains regional sports teams to represent itself abroad, and participates in international competitions apart from Chinese national teams. The city has hosted a number of major sporting events, including the 2009 East Asian Games, the 2008 Summer Olympics equestrian events, and the 2007 Premier League Asia Trophy.[265] The territory regularly hosts the Hong Kong Sevens, Hong Kong Marathon, Hong Kong Tennis Classic, and Lunar New Year Cup, additionally serving as the inaugural host city for the AFC Asian Cup and where the 1995 Dynasty Cup was held.[266][267]

The region has participated at almost every Summer Olympics since 1952, earning 3 medals throughout the competitions. Lee Lai-shan won the territory's first and only Olympic gold medal in the 1996 Atlanta Games.[268] Hong Kong athletes have also won 126 medals at the Paralympic Games and 17 at the Commonwealth Games. No longer part of the Commonwealth of Nations, the city's last appearance at the Commonwealth Games was in 1994.[269]

The Hong Kong Jockey Club holds a statutory monopoly on gambling and is the largest taxpayer in the territory.[270] Betting duties alone account for over 7 per cent of revenue collected by the government.[271] Three forms of gambling are legal in Hong Kong: lotteries, horse race betting, and football betting.[270] Dragon boat races originated as a religious ceremony performed during the annual Tuen Ng Festival. The race was revived as a modern sport as part of the Tourism Board's efforts to promote Hong Kong's image abroad. The first modern competition was organised in 1976, and overseas teams began competing in the first international race in 1993.[272]


The major English-language newspaper for Hong Kong is the South China Morning Post, with The Standard serving as a business-oriented alternative. A large variety of Chinese-language publications are distributed daily; the most prominent are Ming Pao, Oriental Daily News, and the Apple Daily. Local publications are often overt in their political affiliations, showing either pro-Beijing or pro-democracy sympathies. The central government itself maintains a print media presence in the territory through the state-owned Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po.[273] Several international publications base their regional operations in Hong Kong as well, including The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The New York Times International Edition, USA Today, Yomiuri Shimbun, and The Nikkei.[274]

Three free-to-air television broadcasters operate in Hong Kong; TVB, HKTVE, and Fantastic TV in total air three analogue and eight digital channels.[275] TVB, the dominant television network in the territory, has an 80% share of viewership.[276] Pay TV services operated by Cable TV Hong Kong and PCCW offer hundreds of additional channels catering to a variety of audiences.[275] RTHK is the sole public broadcaster, providing seven radio channels and three television channels.[277] 10 non-domestic broadcasters air foreign programming for the territory's non-local population.[275] Access to media and information over the Internet is not subject to regulations applicable in the mainland, including restrictions through the Great Firewall.[278]

See also

Notes and references


  1. No specific variety of Chinese is official in the territory, but Cantonese is the de facto standard.[2][3]
  2. 1 2 For all government use, documents written using Traditional Chinese characters are authoritative over ones inscribed with Simplified Chinese characters.[4] English shares equal status with Chinese in all official proceedings.[5]
  3. Hong Kong permanent residents can be of any nationality. A person without Chinese nationality who has entered Hong Kong with a valid travel document, has ordinarily resided there for a continuous period not less than seven years, and is permanently domiciled in the territory would be legally recognized as a Hongkonger.[15]


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