(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||Occupied by the UK in 1841, Hong Kong was formally ceded by China the following year; various adjacent lands were added later in the 19th century. Pursuant to an agreement signed by China and the UK on 19 December 1984, Hong Kong became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China on 1 July 1997. In this agreement, China has promised that, under its “one country, two systems” formula, China’s socialist economic system will not be imposed on Hong Kong and that Hong Kong will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense affairs for the next 50 years.|
|History||Human settlement in the location now known as Hong Kong dates back to the Paleolithic era. The region was first incorporated into Imperial China in the Qin Dynasty, and served as a trading post and naval base during the Tang Dynasty and the Song Dynasty. The area’s earliest recorded European visitor was Jorge Álvares, a Portuguese mariner who arrived in 1513. Contact with the United Kingdom was established after the British East India Company founded a trading post in the nearby city of Guangzhou.
In 1839, the refusal by Qing Dynasty authorities to import opium resulted in the First Opium War between China and Britain. Hong Kong Island was first occupied by British forces in 1841, and then formally ceded from China under the Treaty of Nanking at the end of the war. The British established a Crown Colony with the founding of Victoria City the following year. In 1860, after China’s defeat in the Second Opium War, the Kowloon Peninsula south of Boundary Street and Stone cutter’s Island were ceded to Britain under the Convention of Peking. In 1898, Britain obtained a 99-year lease of Lantau Island and the adjacent northern lands, which became known as the New Territories.
Hong Kong was declared a free port to serve as an entrepôt of the British Empire. The Kowloon-Canton Railway opened in 1910 with a southern terminus in Tsim Sha Tsui. An education system based on the British model was introduced. The local Chinese population had little contact with the European community of wealthy tai-pans settled near Victoria Peak.
In conjunction with its military campaign in World War II, the Empire of Japan invaded Hong Kong on December 8, 1941. The Battle of Hong Kong ended with British and Canadian defenders surrendering control of the colony to Japan on December 25. During the Japanese occupation, civilians suffered from widespread food shortages caused by imposed rations, and hyper-inflation due to forced exchange of currency for military notes. Hong Kong lost more than half of its population in the period between the invasion and Japan’s surrender in 1945, when the United Kingdom resumed control of the colony.
Hong Kong’s population recovered quickly, as a wave of mainland migrants arrived for refuge from the ongoing Chinese Civil War. With the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, more migrants fled to Hong Kong from fear of persecution by the Communist Party. Many corporations in Shanghai and Guangzhou also shifted their operations to Hong Kong. The colony became the sole place of contact between mainland China and the Western world, as the communist government increasingly isolated the country from outside influence. Trade with the mainland was interrupted during the Korean War, when the United Nations ordered a trade embargo against the communist government.
The textile and manufacturing industries grew with the help of population growth and low-cost of labor. As Hong Kong rapidly industrialized, its economy became driven by exports to international markets. Living standards rose steadily with the industrial growth. The construction of Shek Kip Mei Estate in 1953 marked the beginning of the public housing estate program. Hong Kong was disrupted by chaos during the riots of 1967. Pro-communist leftists, inspired by the Cultural Revolution in the mainland, turned a labor dispute into a violent uprising against the colonial government lasting until the end of the year.
Established in 1974, the Independent Commission Against Corruption dramatically reduced corruption in the government. When the People’s Republic of China initiated a set of economic reforms in 1978, Hong Kong became the main source of foreign investments to the mainland. A Special Economic Zone was established the following year in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, located immediately north of the mainland’s border with Hong Kong. The economy of Hong Kong gradually displaced textiles and manufacturing with services, as the financial and banking sectors became increasingly dominant. After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, the Hong Kong government spent 25 years dealing with the entry and repatriation of Vietnamese refugees.
With the lease of the New Territories due to expire within two decades, the governments of the United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China discussed the issue of Hong Kong’s sovereignty in the 1980’s. In 1984, the two countries signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, agreeing to transfer the sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. The declaration stipulated that Hong Kong would be governed as a special administrative region, retaining its laws and high degree of autonomy for at least fifty years after the transfer. Lacking confidence in the arrangement, some residents chose to emigrate, particularly after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
The Basic Law of Hong Kong, which would serve as the constitutional document after the transfer, was ratified in 1990. Over strong objections from Beijing, Governor Chris Patten introduced democratic reforms to the election process for the Legislative Council. The transfer of the sovereignty occurred at midnight on July 1, 1997, marked by a handover ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Tung Chee Hwa assumed office as the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s economy was affected by the Asian financial crisis of 1997 that hit many East Asian markets. The H5N1 avian influenza also surfaced that year. Implementation of the Airport Core Program led to the opening of the new Hong Kong International Airport in 1998, after six years of construction. The project was part of the ambitious Port and Airport Development Strategy that was drafted in the early 1980’s.
The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome took hold of Hong Kong in the first half of 2003. That year, half a million people participated in a march to voice disapproval of the Tung administration and the proposal to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law, which had raised concerns over infringements on civil liberties. The proposal was later abandoned by the administration. In 2005, Tung submitted his resignation as chief executive. Donald Tsang, the Chief Secretary for Administration, was selected as chief executive to complete the term.
|Geography||Location: Eastern Asia, bordering the South China Sea and China
Geographic coordinates: 22 15 N, 114 10 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 1,092 sq km
land: 1,042 sq km
water: 50 sq km
Area – comparative: six times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: total: 30 km
regional border: China 30 km
Coastline: 733 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
Climate: subtropical monsoon; cool and humid in winter, hot and rainy from spring through summer, warm and sunny in fall
Terrain: hilly to mountainous with steep slopes; lowlands in north
Elevation extremes: lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: Tai Mo Shan 958 m
Natural resources: outstanding deep water harbor, feldspar
Land use: arable land: 5.05%
permanent crops: 1.01%
other: 93.94% (2001)
Irrigated land: 20 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: occasional typhoons
Environment – current issues: air and water pollution from rapid urbanization
Environment – international agreements: party to: Marine Dumping (associate member), Ship Pollution (associate member)
Geography – note: more than 200 islands
|People||Population: 6,980,412 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 13% (male 476,089/female 434,326)
15-64 years: 74% (male 2,515,518/female 2,652,660)
65 years and over: 12.9% (male 419,479/female 482,340) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 41.2 years
male: 40.9 years
female: 41.4 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.561% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 7.34 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 6.45 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 4.72 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.096 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.948 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.87 male(s)/female
total population: 0.956 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 2.94 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.12 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 2.74 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 81.68 years
male: 78.99 years
female: 84.6 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 0.98 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 2,600 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Chinese/Hong Konger
adjective: Chinese/Hong Kong
Ethnic groups: Chinese 94.9%, Filipino 2.1%, other 3% (2001 census)
Religions: eclectic mixture of local religions 90%, Christian 10%
Languages: Chinese (Cantonese) 89.2% (official), other Chinese dialects 6.4%, English 3.2% (official), other 1.2% (2001 census)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over has ever attended school
total population: 93.5%