Hong Kong was formerly a colony of the British Empire, after the perpetual cession of Hong Kong Island from Qing China at the conclusion of the First Opium War. The colony expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 and acquired a 99-year lease of the New Territories from 1898. Hong Kong was later occupied by Japan during the Second World War, until British control resumed in 1945. The territory was returned to China under the framework of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed between the United Kingdom and China in 1984 and marked by the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997, when it became a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China.
Under the principle of "one country, two systems", Hong Kong maintains a separate political and economic system apart from China. Except in military defence and foreign affairs, Hong Kong retains independent executive, legislative, and judiciary powers. Nevertheless, Hong Kong does directly develop relations with foreign states and international organizations in a broad range of "appropriate fields," being actively and independently involved in institutions such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and the World Trade Organization.
Hong Kong is one of the world's most significant financial centres, holding the highest Financial Development Index score and consistently ranking as the world's most competitive and freest economic entity. As the world's 8th largest trading entity, its legal tender, Hong Kong dollar, is the world's 13th most traded currency. Hong Kong's tertiary sector dominated economy is characterised by competitive simple taxation and supported by its independent judiciary system. Although the city boasts one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, it suffers from severe income inequality.
Hong Kong features the most skyscrapers in the world, surrounding Victoria Harbour, which lies in the centre of the city's dense urban region. It has a very high Human Development Index ranking and the world's longest life expectancy. Over 90% of its population makes use of well-developed public transportation. Seasonal air pollution with origins from neighbouring industrial areas of Mainland China, which adopts loose emissions standards, has resulted in a high level of atmospheric particulates in winter.
Hong Kong was officially recorded in the 1842 Treaty of Nanking to encompass the entirety of the island.
The source of the romanised name Hong Kong is not known, but it is generally believed to be an early imprecise phonetic rendering of the pronunciation in spoken Cantonese 香港 (Cantonese Yale: Hēung Góng), which means "Fragrant Harbour" or "Incense Harbour". Before 1842, the name referred to a small inlet—now Aberdeen Harbour (Chinese: 香港仔; Cantonese Yale: Hēunggóng jái), literally means "Little Hong Kong"—between Aberdeen Island and the southern coast of Hong Kong Island. Aberdeen was an initial point of contact between British sailors and local fishermen.
Another theory is that the name would have been taken from Hong Kong's early inhabitants, the Tankas (水上人); it is equally probable that romanisation was done with a faithful execution of their speeches, i.e. hōng, not hēung in Cantonese. Detailed and accurate romanisation systems for Cantonese were available and in use at the time.
Fragrance may refer to the sweet taste of the harbour's fresh water estuarine influx of the Pearl River or to the incense from factories lining the coast of northern Kowloon. The incense was stored near Aberdeen Harbour for export before Hong Kong developed Victoria Harbour.
The name had often been written as the single word Hongkong until the government adopted the current form in 1926. Nevertheless, a number of century-old institutions still retain the single-word form, such as the Hongkong Post, Hongkong Electric and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.
As of 1997, its official name is the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. This is the official title as mentioned in the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Hong Kong Government's website, but Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Hong Kong are widely accepted.
Hong Kong has carried many nicknames. The most famous among those is the "Pearl of the Orient", which reflected the impressive nightscape of the city's light decorations on the skyscrapers along both sides of the Victoria Harbour. Since 2001, the government has promoted Hong Kong as "Asia's World City".
Archaeological studies support human presence in the Chek Lap Kok area (now Hong Kong International Airport) from 35,000 to 39,000 years ago and on Sai Kung Peninsula from 6,000 years ago.
Wong Tei Tung and Three Fathoms Cove are the 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 to Hong Kong. Eight petroglyphs, which dated to the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BC – 1066 BC) in China, were discovered on the surrounding islands.
In 214 BC, Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a centralised China, conquered the Baiyue tribes in Jiaozhi (modern-day Liangguang region and Vietnam) and incorporated the area of Hong Kong into his imperial China for the first time. Hong Kong proper was assigned to the Nanhai commandery (modern-day Nanhai District), near the commandery's capital city Panyu.
After a brief period of centralisation and collapse of the Qin dynasty, the area of Hong Kong was consolidated under the Kingdom of Nanyue, founded by general Zhao Tuo in 204 BC. When Nanyue lost the Han-Nanyue War in 111 BC, Hong Kong came under the Jiaozhi commandery of the Han dynasty. Archaeological evidence indicates an increase of population and flourish of salt production. The Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb on the Kowloon Peninsula is believed to have been built as a burial site during the Han dynasty.
From the Han dynasty to the early Tang dynasty, Hong Kong was a part of Bao'an County. In the Tang dynasty, modern-day Guangzhou (Canton) flourished as an international trading centre. In 736, the Emperor Xuanzong of Tang established a military stronghold in Tuen Mun to strengthen defence of the coastal area. The nearby Lantau Island was a salt production centre and salt smuggler riots occasionally broke out against the government. In c. 1075, The first village school, Li Ying College, was established around 1075 AD in modern-day New Territories by the Northern Song dynasty. During their war against the Mongols, the imperial court of Southern Song was briefly stationed at modern-day Kowloon City (the Sung Wong Toi site) before their ultimate defeat by the Mongols at the Battle of Yamen in 1279. The Mongols then established their dynastic court and governed Hong Kong for 97 years.
From the mid-Tang dynasty to the early Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Hong Kong was a part of Dongguan County. During the Ming dynasty, the area was transferred to Xin'an County. The indigenous inhabitants at that time consisted of several ethnicities such as Punti, Hakka, Tanka and Hoklo.
The earliest European visitor on record was Jorge Álvares, a Portuguese explorer, who arrived in 1513. Having established a trading post in a site they called "Tamão" in Hong Kong waters, Portuguese merchants commenced with regular trading in southern China. Subsequent military clashes between China and Portugal, however, led to the expulsion of all Portuguese merchants from southern China.
Since the 14th century, the Ming court had enforced the maritime prohibition laws that strictly forbade all private maritime activities in order to prevent contact with foreigners by sea. When the Manchu Qing dynasty took over China, Hong Kong was directly affected by the Great Clearance decree of the Kangxi Emperor, who ordered the evacuation of coastal areas of Guangdong from 1661 to 1669. Over 16,000 inhabitants of Xin'an County including those in Hong Kong were forced to migrate inland; only 1,648 of those who had evacuated subsequently returned.
In 1839, threats by the Qing imperial court to place sanctions on opium imports caused diplomatic friction with the British Empire. Tensions escalated into the First Opium War. The Qing admitted defeat when British forces captured Hong Kong Island on 20 January 1841. The island was initially ceded under the Convention of Chuenpi as part of a ceasefire agreement between Captain Charles Elliot and Governor Qishan. A dispute between high-ranking officials of both countries, however, led to the failure of the treaty's ratification. On 29 August 1842, Hong Kong Island was formally ceded in perpetuity to the United Kingdom under the Treaty of Nanking. The British officially established a Crown colony and founded the City of Victoria in the following year.
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, whose settlements scattered along several 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.
Further conflicts over the opium trade between the British and Qing quickly escalated into the Second Opium War. Following the Anglo-French victory, the colony was expanded to include Kowloon Peninsula (south of Boundary Street) and Stonecutter's Island, both of which were ceded to the British in perpetuity under the Convention of Beijing in 1860.
In 1898, Britain obtained a 99-year lease from the Qing under the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory, in which Hong Kong was further expanded to include Lantau Island, the area north of Boundary Street in Kowloon up to the Shenzhen River, and over 200 other outlying islands.
Hong Kong soon became a major entrepôt thanks to its free port status, attracting new immigrants to settle from both China and Europe. However, the population remained racially divided and polarised under early British colonial policies. Despite the rise of a British-educated Chinese upper-class by the late-19th century, racial discrimination laws, such as the Peak Reservation Ordinance, prevented ethnic Chinese from acquiring property in reserved areas, such as Victoria Peak. At this time, the majority of the Chinese population in Hong Kong had no political representation in the British colonial government. The British governors did rely, however, on a small number of Chinese elites, including Sir Kai Ho and Robert Hotung, who served as ambassadors and mediators between the government and local population.
In 1904, the United Kingdom established the world's first border and immigration control; all residents of Hong Kong were given citizenship as Citizens of United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC).
Hong Kong continued to experience modest growth during the first half of the 20th century. The University of Hong Kong was established in 1911 as the territory's first higher education institute. While there had been an exodus of 60,000 residents for fear of a German attack on the British colony during the First World War, Hong Kong remained unscathed. Its population increased from 530,000 in 1916 to 725,000 in 1925 and reached 1.6 million by 1941.
In 1925, Cecil Clementi became the 17th Governor of Hong Kong. Fluent in Cantonese and without a need for translator, Clementi introduced the first ethnic Chinese, Shouson Chow, into the Executive Council as an unofficial member. Under Clementi's tenure, Kai Tak Airport entered operation as RAF Kai Tak and several aviation clubs. In 1937, the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out when the Empire of Japan invaded China from its territories in Manchuria. To safeguard Hong Kong's status as a free port, Governor Geoffry Northcote declared the colony a neutral zone.
As part of its military campaign in Southeast Asia during Second World War, the Japanese army moved south from Guangzhou of mainland China and attacked Hong Kong in on 8 December 1941. Crossing the border at Shenzhen River on 8 December, the Battle of Hong Kong lasted for 18 days when British and Canadian forces held onto Hong Kong Island. Unable to defend against intensifying Japanese air and land bombardments, they eventually surrendered control of Hong Kong on 25 December 1941. The Governor of Hong Kong was captured and taken as a prisoner of war. This day is regarded by the locals as "Black Christmas".
During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, the Japanese army committed atrocities against civilians and POWs, such as the St. Stephen's College massacre. Local residents also 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. Due to starvation and forced deportation for slave labour to mainland China, the population of Hong Kong had dwindled from 1.6 million in 1941 to 600,000 in 1945, when the United Kingdom resumed control of the colony on 2 September 1945.
Hong Kong's population recovered quickly after the war, as a wave of skilled migrants from the Republic of China sought refuge from the Chinese Civil War in a territory neutral to the conflict. When the Communist Party eventually took full control of mainland China in 1949, even more skilled migrants fled across the open border for fear of persecution. Many newcomers, especially those who had been based in the major port cities of Shanghai and Guangzhou, established corporations and small- to medium-sized businesses and shifted their base operations to British Hong Kong. The establishment of the People's Republic of 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 potential military attacks from communist China. Border posts along the north of Hong Kong began operation in 1953 to regulate the movement of people and goods into and out of the territory.
In the 1950s, Hong Kong became the first of the Four Asian Tiger economies that was undergoing rapid industrialisation driven by textile exports, manufacturing industries, and re-exports of goods to China. As the population grew, with labour costs remaining low, living standards began to rise steadily. The construction of the Shek Kip Mei Estate in 1953 marked the beginning of the public housing estate programme, which provided shelter for the less privileged and helped cope with the continuing influx of immigrants.
Under Governor Murray MacLehose, a series of reforms improved the public services, environment, housing, welfare, education, and infrastructure of Hong Kong through his tenure in the 1970s. MacLehose was the longest-serving colonial governor and, by the end of his tenure, had become one of the most popular and well-known figures in the territory. MacLehose laid the foundation for Hong Kong to establish itself as a key global city in the 1980s and early 1990s.
To resolve traffic congestion and provide a more reliable means of crossing the Victoria Harbour, a rapid transit railway system, the Mass Transit Railway, was constructed and began operations in 1979. The Island Line, Kwun Tong Line, and Tsuen Wan Line all opened in the early 1980s, connecting Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and parts of the New Territories to a single transport system.
Since 1983, the value of the Hong Kong dollar has been pegged to that of the United States dollar. Hong Kong's competitiveness in manufacturing gradually declined due to rising labour and property costs, as well as new development in southern China under the Open Door Policy, introduced in 1978, which opened China to foreign business. Nevertheless, towards the early 1990s, Hong Kong had established itself as a global financial centre, a regional hub for logistics and freight, one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, and the world's exemplar of Laissez-faire market policy.
In 1971, China's permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council was transferred from the Republic of China, which had evacuated to Taiwan at the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War, to the People's Republic of China. Hong Kong was soon after removed from the organization's list of non-self-governing territories, at the request of the PRC. Facing an uncertain future for Hong Kong and the expiration of the New Territories lease beyond 1997, Governor MacLehose raised the question of Hong Kong's return to China in the late 1970s.
The British Nationality Act 1981 reclassified Hong Kong as a British Dependent Territory amid the reorganisation of the remaining global territories of the British Empire. All Hong Kong residents automatically became British Dependent Territory Citizens. Diplomatic negotiations began with China and eventually concluded with the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed in 1984. The United Kingdom agreed to transfer the entirety of the colony, including the perpetually ceded areas of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula, to China on 1 July 1997, when Hong Kong would become a special administrative region governed separately from the mainland, retaining its free-market economy, common law judicial system, independent representation in international organizations (e.g. World Trade Organization and World Health Organization), treaty arrangements, and self-governance in all areas except foreign diplomacy and military defence. The treaty stipulated that Hong Kong would be guaranteed a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years after the transfer, with the Hong Kong Basic Law serving as the constitutional document after the transfer.
On 1 July 1997, the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China took place, officially marking the end of 156 years of British colonial governance. As the largest remaining colony of the United Kingdom, the loss of Hong Kong effectively represented the end of the British Empire. This transfer of sovereignty made Hong Kong the first special administrative region of China. Tung Chee-Hwa, a pro-Beijing business tycoon, was elected the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong by a selected electorate of 800 in a televised programme.
Soon after Hong Kong's transfer to China, the territory suffered an economic double-blow: the Asian financial crisis and H5N1 avian flu pandemic. The then-Financial Secretary, Sir Donald Tsang, adopted a radical measure to make use of British Hong Kong foreign currency reserves and restored Hong Kong's financial stability. In December 1997, officials had to destroy 1.4 million livestock in order to contain the H5 virus from spreading.
Despite the economy recovering from the Asian financial crisis, Chief Executive Tung's housing policy of building 85,000 subsidised flats a year triggered a housing market crisis in 1998, depressing property prices and causing some homeowners to become bankrupt.
In 1998, Hong Kong moved its international airport from Kai Tak to an artificially-reclaimed island north of Lantau Island. Construction of this new airport began under the British Rose Garden Project and was completed in May 1998.
Chris Patten's democratic reform of the Legislative Council Election in 1994 was abruptly terminated when Hong Kong transferred to China in 1997. In 1995, China set up a parallel Provisional Legislative Council of pro-Beijing members in Shenzhen. This council, lacking legislative or constitutional power, replaced the elected Legislative Council at the handover and completed its term in 1998. The Legislative Council was reestablished and resumed its full function after the 1998 election under pre-reformed rules; one of its prominent tasks was to complete legislation of articles in the Hong Kong Basic Law, the foundational constitutional document of the territory.
Despite the unopposed re-election of Tung in July 2002, distrust of China remained throughout Tung's first term as Chief Executive. 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. Economic activities slowed and schools were closed for weeks at the height of the SARS epidemic. An estimated 380 million Hong Kong dollars (US$48.9 million) in contracts were lost as a result of the epidemic.
In May 2003, the government's attempt to legislate Article 23 of the Basic Law aroused strong suspicion among local residents. This piece of legislation would have granted the police force the unrestricted right of access to private property and the ability to arrest indiscriminately without court warrants. Coupled with years of economic hardships and discontent of Tung's pro-Beijing stance, a mass demonstration broke out on 1 July 2003. This demonstration prompted the resignations of two government ministers and, eventually, that of Tung on 10 March 2005.
Sir Donald Tsang, then-Chief Secretary for Administration and a long serving official of the civil service since the colonial era, entered the 2005 election uncontested and was appointed by Beijing as the second Chief Executive of Hong Kong on 21 June 2005. In 2006, Tsang introduced food safety procedures to Hong Kong in light of loose vetting standards, contamination and counterfeit food issues of mainland China.
Tsang went on to win a second term in office following the 2007 Chief Executive election under managed voting. As a result of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, Tsang's government rolled out a package of financial stimulus of HK$11 billion and a depositor guarantee scheme to safeguard Hong Kong dollar savings in bank accounts. Hong Kong narrowly avoided a technical recession from the ongoing crisis.
In 2009, Hong Kong hosted the 5th East Asian Games, with nine national teams competing. The Games were the first and largest international multi-sport event ever organised and hosted by the city. Major infrastructure and tourism projects also made significant progress during Tsang's tenure, including the opening of the Ngong Ping Cable Car, construction of the Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, and development of the West Kowloon Cultural District. Construction of the Hong Kong section of the national high-speed railway generated a high level of controversy surrounding the demolition of key landmarks and displacement of residents along the planned rail route; the project has since suffered numerous delays and budget overruns and is now scheduled to be completed towards the end of 2018.
During Tsang's second term, he initiated modest reforms in areas of education, environment and food safety. He concluded his term, however, when a local news media uncovered evidence of him receiving favours and hospitality from business tycoons on various occasions. This resulted in further discovery of bribery in Tsang's government; then-Chief Secretary of Administration, Rafael Hui, was convicted of corruption in 2014.
Three candidates stood for the 2012 Chief Executive Election, including one from the Democratic Party. A selected electorate of 1,200 pro-Beijing members constituted the election committee; Leung Chun-ying won 689 votes and was appointed Chief Executive on 1 July.
During Leung's term, the government completed legislation of Anti-trust and Competition Ordinance and introduced a minimum wage in 2015. Political debates, however, have centred themselves predominately on universal suffrage and education reform. The government's proposal of introducing a national education curriculum in 2014 attracted polarising reactions from the public and a draft bill was eventually withdrawn. Reactions from China, including a State Council white paper on the status of Hong Kong governance, attracted allegations of interference by Beijing in the territory's self-governance and questions regarding the central government's commitment to the framework of autonomy detailed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. This, along with the Standing Committee decision to pre-screen Chief Executive nominees as a prerequisite for universal suffrage, triggered a number of mass protests lasting from September to December 2014, collectively known as the Umbrella Movement.
Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, along with neutrality of press and media, judicial independence, and freedom of speech and publication, have at times been scrutinised. Notable events such as violent attack on journalists, the increasing level of press self-censorship, alleged extraterritorial abduction of anti-China publishers, and covert intervention into Hong Kong's educational, political, and independent institutions have posed challenges to the policy of one country, two systems. In the 2016 Legislative Council Election, there were reports of discrepancies in the electorate registry, which contained ghost registrations across constituencies, as well as political intervention to strip pro-independence individuals of their right to stand in elections and alleged death threats to election candidates.
Social tension heightened during Leung's term, with many residents believing that China increased their efforts to exert influence on everyday life in Hong Kong. The territory currently delegates control of Chinese immigrants, as well as issue of visitor permits, to Chinese authorities. On the first day of the 2016 Chinese New Year, riots broke out specifically targeting police. A survey in 2016 (with a sample base of 573) showed that 17.8% of respondents considered themselves as "Chinese citizens", whereas 41.9% considered themselves purely as "citizens of Hong Kong".
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, maintaining a separate legislature, executive, and judiciary from the rest of the country. It has a parliamentary government modelled after the Westminster system, inheriting this from British colonial administration. The Sino-British Joint Declaration guarantees the territory's capitalist economic system and autonomous system of government for 50 years after the transfer of sovereignty. Under this framework, the Basic Law of Hong Kong is the regional constitutional document, establishing the structure and responsibility of the government. The head of government is the Chief Executive, who is selected by the Election Committee for a five year term, renewable once. The central government provides oversight for the regional government; final interpretative power of the Basic Law rests with the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and the Chief Executive is appointed by the State Council after nomination. Responsibility for foreign and military affairs is also assumed by the central authority.
The Legislative Council is a unicameral legislature with 70 members, consisting of 35 directly elected members apportioned to geographical constituencies, 30 members representing professional or special interest groups formed as functional constituencies, and 5 members nominated by members of the District Councils and elected in territory-wide elections. Government policy is determined by the Executive Council, a body of advisors appointed by the Chief Executive with the authority to issue delegated legislation and proposes new bills to the legislature for debate and promulgation. Direct administration is managed by the Civil Service, an apolitical bureaucracy that ensures positive implementation of policy. Hong Kong is nationally represented in the National People's Congress by 36 delegates chosen through an electoral college.
22 political parties had representatives elected to the Legislative Council in the 2016 election. 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. The Communist Party does not have an official political presence in Hong Kong and its members do not run in local elections.
The Monetary Authority is the currency board and de facto central bank of the territory. It is responsible for regulation of the Hong Kong dollar and, along with HSBC, Standard Chartered Hong Kong, and the Bank of China, issues currency in the form of banknotes. Coinage is solely minted by the Monetary Authority.
The judicial system of Hong Kong is derived from the common law system of English law, and was created at the establishment of the territory as a British colony. Chinese national law does not generally apply in the region, and Hong Kong is treated as an independent jurisdiction. The Court of Final Appeal is the territory's highest court, exercising final adjudication over interpretation of laws and has the power to strike down statutes and legislation inconsistent with the Basic Law. It is led by the Chief Justice and consists of three additional permanent judges and one non-permanent seat filled by judges from overseas common law jurisdictions on a rotating basis. However, final interpretation of the Basic Law itself is a power vested in the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Judges on all courts are appointed by the Chief Executive on the recommendation of an independent commission. As a common law system, judicial courts in Hong Kong may refer to precedents set in English law and Commonwealth jurisdictions.
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. The department may call for judicial review of government action or legislation 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. Law enforcement is a responsibility of the Security Bureau and the Hong Kong Police, with agencies like the Customs and Excise Department and Immigration Department handling more specialised tasks.
Responsibility for diplomatic affairs is assumed by the central government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but Hong Kong retains the ability to enter into international agreements in commercial, economic, and other appropriate fields defined by the Basic Law. Under the name "Hong Kong, China", the territory actively participates with foreign nations in international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and the International Olympic Committee. The government maintains trade offices for conducting external commercial relations in foreign countries and Greater China.
Hong Kong is a customs territory and economic area separate from the rest of China and has an independent immigration policy. The region maintains a regulated border with the mainland and all travellers between Hong Kong and China must pass through border controls.
Though no longer administering the territory after the transfer of sovereignty, the United Kingdom maintains strong ties with Hong Kong. Hundreds of British corporations maintain offices or their regional headquarters in the territory, and both parties collaborate on a number of economic and bilateral agreements. Hong Kong regularly invites British and Commonwealth judges to sit on the Court of Final Appeal, and its universities remain involved in the Association of Commonwealth Universities. As a signatory of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the United Kingdom is obligated to ensure proper implementation of the treaty; the Foreign Secretary reports to Parliament on a biyearly basis on the status of Hong Kong.
123 countries maintain consular missions in Hong Kong, as well as major supranational organizations, including the European Union. A number of consulates-generals, such as those of the United States and United Kingdom, operate independently of their embassies in Beijing, extend their areas of jurisdiction beyond Hong Kong to include Macau, and report directly to their respective foreign offices.
Hong Kong consists of three geographical regions, divided by their time of acquisition by the United Kingdom: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories. The city of Victoria, the first urban settlement in Hong Kong, was established on Hong Kong Island, and its area is analogous to present-day Central and Western District.
The territory is administratively divided into 18 districts. Each district is represented by a district council, which advises the government on local issues such as the provisioning of public facilities, maintenance of community programmes, promotion of cultural activities, and improvement of environmental policies. There are a total of 541 district council seats, 412 of which are directly elected and 27 of which are filled by ex officio members consisting of rural committee chairmen, representing villages and towns of outlying areas of the New Territories; the remaining seats are appointed by the Chief Executive. The Home Affairs Department communicates government policies and plans to the public through the district offices. Local administration of municipal services was previously delegated to the Urban Council in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island and to the Regional Council in the New Territories, until they were abolished in 1999.
Although the Basic Law lays the foundation for the regional government, some of its articles require more specific legislation to be adopted before implementation. Article 23 provides for laws that prohibit treason and subversion in the territory, and a bill was drafted pursuant to this constitutional requirement. The government dropped this proposal after fierce opposition and protests against its perceived potential to restrict freedom of information.
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. While the legislature is now partially directly elected, the executive continues to be selected by means other than direct election. From its establishment as a colony, Hong Kong has not had a fully representative democratic government. Colonial administration prior to the Second World War largely excluded Chinese representation. As a British territory, the executive was embodied by the Sovereign, who appointed and was personally represented by the Governor. The Legislative Council initially consisted exclusively of white British members, with its first Chinese member appointed in 1880. After the end of Japanese occupation and the resumption of British control, amidst the greater movement of global decolonisation, the government seriously considered constitutional reform in Hong Kong; this was ultimately shelved due to fears of government infiltration by communist sympathisers after their victory at the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War.
After negotiation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the Legislative Council was reformed to include functional constituency seats in 1985 and directly elected seats in 1991. Electoral reform introduced in 1994 greatly expanded the electorate for functional constituencies, effectively making them representative. However, the legislature was abolished after the handover and replaced with a body closer in composition to the legislature prior to those reforms.
Electoral reform continues to be a contentious issue after the transfer of sovereignty. The government faces ongoing calls to introduce direct election of the Chief Executive and all Legislative Council members. These efforts have been partially sucessful; the Election Committee no longer selects a portion of the Legislative Council and was slightly expanded to 1,200 members, and the number of legislature seats was increased to 70. A central government decision in 2014 to require Chief Executive candidates to be pre-screened as part of a reform package to introduce universal suffrage incited large-scale protests demanding a more open process. The proposal was later rejected by the legislature and the executive selection process remains unchanged.
The Basic Law establishes a series of fundamental rights for every resident of Hong Kong. Though the regional government generally observes these guarantees, the central government has been increasingly perceived to be encroaching on the autonomy of the territory.
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress holds final interpretative power over the Basic Law, and use of it can override any regional judicial process. After the 2016 legislative elections, six incoming Legislative Council members took their oaths of office improperly. The Standing Committee subsequently issued a new interpretation of the Basic Law article regarding assumption of office, preempting a territorial judicial review and allowing the High Court to disqualify the legislators. Judicial independence was also questioned after the disappearance of five staff members of a Causeway Bay bookstore that was known to sell literary material prohibited in the mainland. Their possible abduction and rendition by Chinese public security bureau officials would represent a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, violating the guarantee of regional autonomy; mainland authorities do not have extraterritorial jurisdiction to enforce national laws.
Freedom of the press since the handover have been threatened by incidents of physical violence against journalists and as news media organisations are pressured not to publish stories that portray the central government in a negative way. News media has been increasingly prone to self-censorship, as publication owners expand business interests on the mainland or media organisations become acquired by Chinese corporations. The police have been accused of using excessive force against protesters at public rallies and overtly barring demonstrators from free assembly.
Ethnic minorities, excluding those of European ancestry, have marginal representation in government and are often discriminated against while seeking housing, education, and employment opportunities. While legislation prohibits discrimination based on age, sex, and disability, it specifically excludes migrant workers, along with immigrants and mainland Chinese. Employment vacancies and public service appointments frequently have language requirements, which minority job seekers frequently fail to meet, while language education resources remain inadaquate for Chinese learners. In recent years, residents of a minority ethnicity have been more frequently placed on government advisory committees to address racial issues.
Foreign domestic helpers, predominately 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. Domestic helpers are required to live in the residence of the employer and must leave Hong Kong within two weeks on termination of an employment contract or face deportation. Additionally, the Immigration Department does not renew visas for workers who change employers more than three times in a single year. Legislation offers nominal protection for migrant workers, but the legal process for recourse is time-consuming and costly, potentially taking 15 months for cases to be heard in the District Court or Labour Tribunal. The culmulative effect of these policies and legislation leaves foreign domestic helpers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by employers and greatly restricts their labour mobility.
The territory is protected by the Hong Kong Garrison of the People's Liberation Army, headquartered at the Chinese People's Liberation Army Forces Hong Kong Building in Central. The garrison reports its command to the Central Military Commission. The Basic Law protects all civilians and civil affairs against interference by the garrison. All military personnel, while stationed in Hong Kong, are subject to both national and Hong Kong laws. Under exceptional circumstances, the regional government may ask the central government for assistance from the garrison in disaster relief. During the colonial era, the defence of Hong Kong was the responsibility of the British Forces Overseas Hong Kong, supplemented by local militia organized as the Royal Hong Kong Regiment.
Under current law, Chinese citizens resident in Hong Kong are unable to enlist in the armed forces and are not subject to conscription as prescribed in the Chinese constitution. The People's Liberation Army sponsored the establishment of the Hong Kong Army Cadets Association, a uniformed youth organization of children aged 6 and older.
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 Sham Chun River. The territory's 2,755 km2 (1,064 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, 1,106 km2 (427 sq mi) is land and 1,649 km2 (637 sq mi) is water. Hong Kong claims territorial waters to a distance of 3 nautical miles (5.6 km). Its land area makes Hong Kong the 167th 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, while the majority is grassland, woodland, shrubland, and agricultural land. About 40% of the remaining land area is reserved as country parks and nature reserves. Low altitude vegetation in Hong Kong is dominated by secondary rainforests, as the primary forest was mostly cleared during the Second World War, and higher altitudes are dominated by grassland. The territory is highly diverse: over 3,000 species of vascular plants occur in the region, 300 of which are native to Hong Kong. Over 2,000 species of moths, butterflies, dragonflies, and other insects can be found, as well as one third of the total bird species in China, and a variety of fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals native to the Pearl River Delta. The Bauhinia orchid, native to the region, serves as a symbol for the city, appearing on the territorial flag and emblem.
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 Global 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 128 km (80 miles) 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. Typhoons most often occur in summer. They sometimes result 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. Snowfall is extremely rare, and usually occurs in areas of high elevation. Hong Kong averages 1,948 hours of sunshine per year, while the highest and lowest ever recorded temperatures at the Hong Kong Observatory are 36.6 °C (97.9 °F) on 22 August 2017 and 0.0 °C (32.0 °F) on 18 January 1893, respectively. The highest and lowest ever recorded temperatures across all of Hong Kong, on the other hand, are 42.1 °C (108 °F) at Waglan Island in June 1991 and −6.0 °C (21.2 °F) at Tai Mo Shan on 24 January 2016, respectively.
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. From the second half of the 19th century and continuing into the first half of the 20th century, Hong Kong operated as a key command centre for the allocation of Asian capital in its broadest form. Hong Kong stature as an International Financial centre (IFC), gradually developed from the 1950s to become a key component of the island's economy. It is an important centre for international finance and trade, with one of the greatest concentrations of corporate headquarters in the Asia-Pacific region. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is the seventh largest in the world and has a market capitalisation of US$3.2 trillion as of December 2016. In 2009, 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. In the 2017 Global Financial Centres Index, Hong Kong was ranked as having the fourth most competitive financial center in the world (alongside cities such as London, New York City, Tokyo, San Francisco, Chicago, Sydney, Boston, and Toronto in the top 10), and second most competitive in Asia after Singapore.
The currency, Hong Kong dollar, is the thirteenth most traded currency in the world as of 2016, it has been pegged to the US dollar since 1983. 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 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. In 2008, the territory was named as a Nylonkong global metropolis and financial centre.
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.
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.
In 2014, Hong Kong was the eleventh most popular destination for international tourists among countries and territories worldwide, with a total of 27.8 million visitors contributing a total of US$38,376 million in international tourism receipts. Hong Kong is also the most popular city for tourists, nearly two times of its nearest competitor Macau.
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. Hong Kong is also ranked second in the world by the most billionaires per capita (one per 132,075 people), behind Monaco. In 2011, Hong Kong was ranked second in the Ease of Doing Business Index, behind Singapore. Hong Kong is also ranked No. 1 in the world in the Crony Capitalism Index by The Economist.
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 financial centre matured 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.
Providing an adequate water supply for Hong Kong has always been difficult because the region has few natural lakes and rivers, inadequate groundwater sources (inaccessible in most cases due to the hard granite bedrock found in most areas in the territory), a high population density, and extreme seasonable variations in rainfall. Thus about 70 percent of water demand is met by importing water from the Dongjiang River in neighbouring Guangdong province. In addition, freshwater demand is curtailed by the use of seawater for toilet flushing, using a separate distribution system.
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, which is widely accepted on railways, buses and ferries, and accepted like cash at other outlets.
Hong Kong International Airport is the primary airport for the territory. Over 100 airlines operate flights from the airport and it is the main hub of Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Air Hong Kong, and Hong Kong Airlines. It is an important regional transhipment centre, passenger hub, and gateway for destinations in mainland China and the rest of Asia. The airport is a major international air passenger gateway and services the most air cargo traffic in the world. Handling over 70 million passengers annually, it is the eighth busiest airport worldwide by passenger traffic. The airport is constructed on an artificial island north of Lantau Island and was built to replace the overcrowded Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon Bay.
The Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is an extensive passenger railway network, connecting 93 metro stations throughout the territory. With a daily ridership of over five million, the system serves 41% of all public transit passengers in the city. Service is extremely punctual, achieving an on-time rate of 99.9%. The rapid transit network operates within inner urban Hong Kong and extends to New Kowloon, Lantau Island, and the northeastern and northwestern parts of the New Territories. Nine railway lines provide general metro services, while the Airport Express provides a direct link from Hong Kong International Airport to the city centre and a dedicated line transports passengers to and from Hong Kong Disneyland.
Cross boundary train service to Shenzhen is offered by the East Rail Line, terminating at immigration checkpoints at Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau. Inter-city trains to Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing are operated from Hung Hom Station. Connecting service to the national high-speed rail system is scheduled to begin in 2018, after construction of West Kowloon Station completes.
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 as of 2014. 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 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 Tramways, which has served the territory since 1904, covers the northern parts of Hong Kong Island. The MTR operates the Light Rail system serving the districts of Tuen Mun and Yuen Long.
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.
The Census and Statistics Department estimated the population to be 7,389,500 people as of August 2017, with an average annual growth rate of 0.8% over the previous five years. Life expectancy in Hong Kong is 81.2 years for males and 86.9 years for females as of 2014, making it the highest life expectancy in the world.
92% of the population is ethnic Chinese, the majority of whom are Taishanese, Chiu Chow, other Cantonese people, and Hakka. A large portion of Hong Kong's majority population originated from the neighbouring province of Guangdong, from where many fled during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese Civil War, and after establishment of communist rule in China.
The remaining 8% of the population is composed of non-ethnic Chinese. Filipinos and Indonesians form the city's largest ethnic minority groups, many of whom work as foreign domestic helpers. South Asians, largely descendants of British Indian soldiers stationed by the colonial government and migrants of that era, also make up a significant minority. Like many Chinese who crossed the border after the communist victory at the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War, Vietnamese refugees sought refuge and settled in Hong Kong during and after the Vietnam War. Britons, Americans, Canadians, Japanese, and Koreans resident in the city largely work in the commercial and financial sector.
A legacy of colonial rule, about 3 million residents hold some form of British nationality, including British National (Overseas) status and British citizenship. The vast majority of those who do concurrently hold Chinese nationality, which was automatically granted to all residents of Chinese descent at the transfer of sovereignty.
Chinese citizens ordinarily resident in mainland China are not entitled to right of abode in Hong Kong, and are subject to immigration controls. Like foreign nationals, they may apply for right of abode after seven years of continuous residency. Some rights may be acquired through marriage (e.g., the right to work), but these do not include the right to vote or stand for office. The influx of Chinese immigrants is a significant contributor to territorial population growth, and is limited by a daily quota of 150 people with existing family ties in Hong Kong. These immigrants are issued a One-way Permit and have their household registration in the mainland rescinded.
The two official languages of Hong Kong are Chinese and English. Cantonese, a variety of Chinese originating from the province of Guangdong to the north of Hong Kong, is spoken by the vast majority of the population. According to the 2016 by-census, 94.6% of the population speak Cantonese; 88.9% as a first language and 5.7% as a second language.
The Hong Kong Basic Law is written in Chinese and English, and legislation enacted since the handover has been drafted in both languages. Colonial era legislation and court proceedings predominantly used English, so the two languages share a coequal status in the common law system of the territory. Approximately half of the population speak English, though only 4.3% use it natively and 48.9% as a second language. Hong Kong English is the common form of English used in the region, generally following British English in spelling and heavily influenced by Cantonese pronunciations. Among the bilingual members of the population, many exhibit code-switching, mixing English and Cantonese in informal conversation.
Since the transfer of sovereignty, an influx of mainland Chinese immigrants and greater interaction with the rest of the national economy have brought an increasing number of Mandarin speakers to Hong Kong. Mandarin is about as prevalent as English in the territory; 48.6% of the population can speak it, with 1.9% using it as a first language and 46.7% as a second language. Hong Kong uses traditional Chinese characters in written script, rather than simplified characters that are officially used in the mainland.
Hong Kong is a multi-faith society. A majority of residents of Hong Kong have no religious affiliation, professing a form of agnosticism or atheism. According to the United States Department of State 43 percent of the population practises some form of religion. According to a Gallup poll, 64% of Hong Kong residents do not believe in any 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 outnumber Roman Catholics by a ratio of 4:3, and smaller Christian communities also 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 largest 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 in Hong Kong is largely modelled after that of the United Kingdom, particularly the English system. 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. In secondary schools, "biliterate and trilingual" (Chinese: 兩文三語) 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.
Public schools are operated by the Education Bureau. Children are required to attend school from the age of six until completion of secondary education (generally, at age 18). At the end of secondary schooling, a public examination is administered to all students, awarding the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education on successful completion.
Comprehensive schools fall under three categories: public schools, which are fully government-run; subsidised schools, including government aids-and-grant schools; and private schools, often those run by religious organisations and that base admissions on academic merit. These schools are subject to the curriculum guidelines as provided by the Education Bureau. Private schools subsidised under the Direct Subsidy Scheme and international schools fall outside of this system and may elect to use differing curricula and teach based on other languages.
Hong Kong has ten universities within its territory. The University of Hong Kong was founded as the city's first institute of higher education during the early colonial period in 1911. The Chinese University of Hong Kong was established in 1963 to fill the need for a university that taught using Chinese as its primary language of instruction. Along with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and City University of Hong Kong, these universities are ranked among the best in Asia. In subsequent years, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong Baptist University, Lingnan University, Education University of Hong Kong, Open University of Hong Kong, and Hong Kong Shue Yan University were established to meet growing demand for higher education. Competition among students for admission into undergraduate programmes is fierce, as the number of available placements remains limited. The city additionally has post-secondary institutes that provide an alternative path for tertiary education.
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.
Hong Kong is frequently described as a place where "East meets West", reflecting the culture's mix of the territory's Chinese (mainly Cantonese) roots with Western (mainly British) 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 recognized 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 had two licensed terrestrial broadcasters – ATV and TVB, the former of which has now been defunct. 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 Cantonese-speaking population. 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 pointed 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.
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, cricket, 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. 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. 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.
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 taller 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.