Hong Kong

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Hong Kong

Hong Kong (hŏng kŏng), Mandarin Xianggang, special administrative region of China, formerly a British crown colony (2015 est. pop. 7,246,000), land area 422 sq mi (1,092 sq km), adjacent to Shenzhen, Guangdong prov., SE China, on the estuary of the Pearl River, 40 mi (64 km) E of Macau and 90 mi (145 km) SE of Guangzhou (Canton). The region comprises Hong Kong island, ceded by China in 1842 under the Treaty of Nanjing; Kowloon (Mandarin Jiulong) peninsula, ceded (with Stonecutters Island) in 1860 under the Beijing Convention; and the New Territories, a mountainous mainland area adjoining Kowloon, which, with Deep Bay on the west and Mirs Bay on the east and some 235 offshore islands, was leased from China in 1898 for 99 years. China regained sovereignty over the colony on July 1, 1997. The capital, officially named Victoria but commonly called Hong Kong, is on the northwest shore of Hong Kong island.

Land, People, and Government

Hong Kong has many natural harbors, that of Victoria (c.17 sq mi/44 sq km) being one of the finest in the world. The colony grew around this beautiful, sheltered, deepwater port, and today an estimated 75% of the population are concentrated there. Victoria lies at the foot of Victoria Peak (1,805 ft/550 m), the center of an extensively quarried granite range covering much of Hong Kong island. As the city has grown, large sections of Victoria Harbor have been filled in to provide space for office buildings, a convention center, and highways. The International Commerce Center, in West Kowloon on Victoria Harbor, is one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world.

About 95% of the people are ethnic Chinese, some 2% are Filipino, and there are substantial British and American communities. Cantonese and English are official languages, and other Chinese dialects are spoken. About 90% of the population practice traditional Chinese religions, and some 10% are Christian. Hong Kong's educational institutions include the Univ. of Hong Kong and Chinese Univ.

Hong Kong is governed under the Basic Law as approved in 1990 by the National People's Congress of China. The head of state is the president of China. The government is headed by the chief executive, who is elected by the 800-member electoral committee for a five-year term. The legislature consists of the 60-seat Legislative Council, half of whose members are directly elected, and half indirectly, for four-year terms. Changes adopted in 2010 increased the number of directly elected seats to 40, but required that 5 of the new members be chosen from among district members; the electoral committee was expanded to 1,200 members. The main parties are the prodemocracy Democratic party, the probusiness Liberal Party, and the Beijing-oriented Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong.


Hong Kong is a free port, a bustling trade center, and a shopping and banking emporium—one of the greatest trading and transshipment centers in East Asia. After 1950, when much of its entrepôt trade with China was halted because of UN and U.S. embargoes, Hong Kong began to industrialize. Overcoming such handicaps as a scarcity of minerals, power sources, usable land, and freshwater, and utilizing its abundant supply of cheap labor, Hong Kong has become a leading light-manufacturing center.

The textile and garment industry is the colony's largest manufacturing sector. Other industries include the manufacture of electrical and electronic equipment, plastics, toys, watches and clocks, appliances, metal and rubber products, chemicals, and jewelry. The majority of goods are exported. Shipbuilding, machine tooling, and other heavy industries are also important, although most raw materials, capital goods, and fuel must be imported. China is by far the main trading partner, followed by the United States and Japan. Tourism is a major source of revenue, in addition to motion-picture production, finance and insurance, and publishing.

Because of the mountainous and rocky terrain, only about 5% of the land is arable; farming is carried on principally in the New Territories; the Yuanlong valley has the best farmland. Rice and a variety of vegetables are grown, but most food is imported from mainland China. Fishing is a common occupation, and chickens and pigs are raised.

Hong Kong's rail link with the mainland is by the Kowloon-Guangzhou Railway. Kowloon is connected with Hong Kong island, 1 mi (1.6 km) away, by ferry and by a vehicular tunnel. The Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, opened in 2018, connects Hong Kong with Macau and Zhuhai, China, across the Pearl River estuary; the main section consists of a 14.2 mi (22.9 km) bridge and 4.2 mi (6.7 km) tunnel. Hong Kong has shipping connections with all major world ports and is an international air hub; the airport at Kai Tak (opened 1958) was built on land reclaimed from Kowloon Bay. A new airport, on landfill extending from Chek Lap Kok island, opened in 1998; highways and a high-speed rail system connect Victoria to the airport.


The region of Hong Kong, which had long been barren, rocky, and sparsely settled—its many islands and inlets a haven for coastal pirates—was occupied by the British during the Opium War (1839–42). The colony prospered as an east-west trading center, the commercial gateway to, and distribution center for, S China. It was efficiently governed, and its banking, insurance, and shipping services quickly became known as the most reliable in SE Asia. In 1921 the British agreed to limit the fortifications of the colony, and this contributed to its easy conquest (Dec. 25, 1941) by the Japanese. It was reoccupied by the British on Sept. 16, 1945.

After 1949, when the Communists took control of mainland China, hundreds of thousands of refugees crossed the border, making Hong Kong's urban areas some of the most densely populated in the world. Problems of housing, health, drug addiction, and crime were the target of aggressive governmental programs, and Hong Kong's long-standing water problem was eased by the construction of an elaborate system of giant reservoirs and the piping in of water from China.

In May, 1967, Hong Kong was struck by a wave of riots and strikes inspired by China's Cultural Revolution. The government reacted firmly, and, although the Chinese retaliated by briefly stopping the piping of water and by attacking British representatives in Beijing, relations between Hong Kong and China soon resumed the surface harmony that had existed since the late 1950s.

After several years of negotiations, on Dec. 19, 1984, Britain and the People's Republic of China agreed that Hong Kong (comprising Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories) would become a special administrative region of China as of July 1, 1997, when Britain's lease expired. Declaring a policy of “One Country, Two Systems,” China agreed to give Hong Kong considerable autonomy, allowing its existing social and economic systems to remain unchanged for a period of 50 years.

The crackdown in 1989 at Tiananmen Square in Beijing inspired fears that China would not respect Hong Kong's autonomy, and in the next few years many business people left, affecting Hong Kong's economy. In 1991, Hong Kong's first direct legislative elections (which accounted for about 30% of the seats) were won almost entirely by liberal, prodemocracy candidates, and no pro-China candidates were elected.

In 1992, Britain introduced a number of democratic measures, which were denounced by China. Talks between the two countries proved fruitless, and in 1994 Hong Kong's legislature approved further democratic reforms in the colony in defiance of strong Chinese objections. In the subsequent elections (1995) prodemocracy candidates received about 60% of the popular vote. Upon Hong Kong's return to China, Beijing abolished the legislature set up by the British and established a provisional legislature; a chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, was also appointed. Elections were held in 1998, with prodemocracy parties taking 16 of 20 directly elected seats (the rest of the 60 seats were mostly chosen by professional constituencies).

Hong Kong was affected by the Asian financial crisis of 1997–98, but its economy began to rebound in 1999. A setback to Hong Kong's independent judicial system occurred in 1999, when Beijing overturned a Hong Kong court ruling that had granted residency to children born in mainland China who had at least one parent living in Hong Kong. In the Sept., 2000, legislative council elections, prodemocracy parties won 15 of the 24 directly elected seats.

Tung was reelected as chief executive in 2002. Although not popular, he was supported by the Chinese government, and no other candidate was nominated by the electoral committee responsible for electing the executive. In 2003, Hong Kong's economy was hurt by measures undertaken to control an outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which spread there from China. A trade agreeement was signed with China in June; the pact gave Hong Kong businesses greater access to Chinese markets. Proposed new antisubversion laws led to significant antigovernment demonstrations the following month, and Tung subsequently withdrew the legislation.

In Apr., 2004, the Chinese government ruled that Hong Kong would have to petition China in order to make any changes in its electoral laws, including increasing the number of legislators chosen by direct election. In 2004 half the legislators were directly elected, but prodemocracy forces won a total of only 26 seats in the election, which was fiercely contested and marked by heavy-handed Chinese tactics. Tung resigned in Mar., 2005, and was replaced as chief executive by Donald Tsang, who had been chief secretary.

Tsang subsequently resigned to campaign for election to the post, which he secured in June. Two governmental reform proposals failed to pass in late 2005 when prodemocracy legislators rejected them as constituting minor tinkering with the laws governing the election of the chief executive and the size of the legislature. Tsang was reelected chief executive in Mar., 2007. Later in the year the Chinese government indicated that it would consider allowing the direct election of the chief executive beginning in 2017. (In 2013, however, a senior Chinese official said that China would ultimately decide if the person who is elected becomes chief executive.) Elections in 2008 resulted in prodemocracy candidates winning 24 legislative seats.

In 2010 legislators passed a compromise bill that increased the size of the electoral council and expanded the size of the legislature; the changes were supported by pro-Beijing and some prodemocracy legislators. Leung Chun-ying, a business executive and former senior government adviser with close ties to China, was elected chief executive in Mar., 2012. Prodemocracy candidates won 27 legislative seats in Sept., 2012, a result that represented a slight decrease percentagewise in the enlarged legislature.

An unofficial referendum on the direct election of the the chief executive was conducted by an opposition group in June, 2014; participants, who numbered nearly 800,000, chose among three options, all of which allowed for the popular nomination of candidates. In August, however, China called for restrictions on the nomination of candidates for chief executive that would effectively prevent a true popular election when the changes were introduced in 2017. There subsequently were large protests in Hong Kong against the proposal, and it failed to win the legislature's approval in 2015.

In the Sept., 2016, legislative elections there was a record voter turnout, and the prodemocracy parties and parties favoring increased autonomy won 30 seats. When some proindependence legislators-elect modified the oath in which they swear allegiance to China, Beijing ruled that only officials who swore allegiance properly could hold office. As a result several legislators and candidates were disqualified from 2016, and a proindependence political party was banned in 2018.

In Mar., 2017, Carrie Lam, who had served as chief secretary under Leung, was elected chief executive. In 2019, a proposed extradition bill prompted fears that it could be used to subject Hong Kong citizens to China's justice system and led, beginning in March, to demonstrations, some of which became extremely large and increasingly involving clashes between some protesters and the police. In October, the legislature finally withdrew the bill, but protests continued. In district council elections in November, prodemocracy candidates made significant gains in what was seen as a loss for Lam and her policies.

China's government, bypassing the Hong Kong legislature, adopted a so-called national security law for Hong Kong in June, 2020. The legislation, which criminalized secessionist, subversive, and terrorist activities, increased local police powers, and gave Chinese security officials the right to act independently of the Hong Kong legal system, was aimed at ending proindependence, prodemocracy, and other antigovernment demonstrations and criticism. Criticized as the effective end of Hong Kong's fundamental freedoms and the “One Country, Two Systems” policy, it led the United States to end preferential trade and other arrangements with Hong Kong, and other nations also modified aspects of their relationships with the territory. In July, legislative elections were postponed for a year due to COVID-19. After China forced the removal of four moderate prodemocracy legislators in November, all the prodemocracy legislators resigned.


See R. Hughes, Hong Kong: Borrowed Place, Borrowed Time (1968); J. Pope-Hennesy, Half-Crown Colony (1970); G. B. Endicott, A History of Hong Kong (1964, repr. 1973); N. J. Miners, Hong Kong Under Imperial Rule, 1912–1941 (1988); J. Morris, Hong Kong (1988); G. Peebles, Hong Kong's Economy (1988); I. Scott, Political Change and the Crisis of Legitimacy in Hong Kong (1989); C. P. Lo, Hong Kong (1992); C. Patten, East and West: China, Power and the Future of Asia (1998).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Hong Kong


(Hsiang-kang), a territory in southeastern China, bounded by the South China Sea. A possession of Great Britain, Hong Kong consists of two parts: a colony, comprising the island of Hong Kong and part of the Kowloon Peninsula, and a leased area known as the New Territories, which includes most of the Kowloon Peninsula and the adjacent islands. Area, 1,045 sq km (UN data, 1975). Population, 4.4 million (1975). The administrative center is Hong Kong, called Victoria by the British.

Natural features. The coast is cut by many bays and gulfs and fringed by numerous small rocky islands. Hong Kong’s mountainous terrain has a maximum elevation of 939 m. The climate is monsoonal, with temperatures averaging 15°–16°C in January and 25°–27°C in July. The annual precipitation may be as much as 2,000 mm (summer maximum). Evergreen tropical forests are found on the island.

Population. About 98 percent of the population is Chinese. Among other groups are British, Tibeto-Burmese, Indians, and Portuguese. The religious persuasions of the Chinese include traditional ancestor worship, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism; there are also some Catholics. English and Chinese have been the official languages since 1973. The official calendar is the Gregorian.

Between 1963 and 1974 the population increased at an average annual rate of 2 percent. Of the total work force (1971), about 43 percent are employed in industry, 23.3 percent in the service sector, 13.2 percent in commerce, 7 percent in transportation and communications, and 4 percent in agriculture and the fishing industry. The population density exceeds 4,000 persons per sq km. More than 60 percent of the population lives in urban areas.

Historical survey. The area of modern Hong Kong became part of the Chinese state at the end of the third century B.C., although Chinese farming peoples settled here only in the 11th century. During the Opium War of 1840–42, the island of Hong Kong was occupied by the British, and by the Treaty of Nanking (1842) it was ceded to Great Britain “in perpetuity.” As a result of the Second Opium War (1856–60), the southern tip of Kowloon Peninsula was taken from the Chinese and added to the British holdings. The annexation increased the importance of the island of Hong Kong, which was located on the maritime routes linking the countries of the Pacific and Indian oceans, and the island became a major commercial center. After the British opened the Hong Kong-Shanghai Bank in Hong Kong in 1865, the bank subsequently played a large role in China’s financial enslavement by the imperialist powers. Under a convention imposed on China and signed in Peking in June 1898, Great Britain obtained a 99-year lease on yet another part of the Kowloon Peninsula and its adjacent islands, which came to be known as the New Territories.

By the beginning of the 20th century, Hong Kong had become one of the largest commercial centers and ports of the Far East and a bastion of British imperialism in China. Military and financial aid was sent from Hong Kong to Canton in 1924 to assist the Chinese compradores who were rebelling against the revolutionary government of Sun Yat-sen. The working class of Hong Kong repeatedly defied the imperialists. A large strike of the Chinese proletariat occurred there in January 1922, to be followed several years later by the famous Hong Kong-Canton Strike of 1925–26. Seized by Japanese imperialists on Dec. 25, 1941, Hong Kong was recaptured by the British on Aug. 30,1945.

The government of the People’s Republic of China does not recognize the colonial status of Hong Kong. It considers Hong Kong a territory that has been “torn away.”


Economy. Reexport and transit operations are especially important for Hong Kong’s economy. The large investments of Chinese businessmen and an influx of foreign capital have stimulated industrial growth. In the 1960’s industry became the main sector of Hong Kong’s economy, although it depends almost entirely on imported raw materials and semifinished products. About 80 percent of the industrial output is exported. In addition to large modern enterprises, there are some 30,000 small shops employing more than 800,000 persons. The leading industries produce clothing, textiles, foodstuffs, tobacco products, footwear, electronic and electrical equipment, and watches and clocks. Also important are shipbuilding and repair and the manufacture of petrochemicals, china, plastic goods, toys, wigs, and artificial flowers. Mining products include iron ore, kaolin, and quartz. In 1975, Hong Kong produced 5.9 billion kW-hr of electricity. In 1973 foreign industrial investments, chiefly British, American, and Japanese, amounted to US $1.2 billion, of which one-third was invested in electronics and electrical engineering, one-fifth in the garment and textile industries, and one-eighth in shipbuilding. Hong Kong’s arable land is sown mainly to rice and vegetables; flowers are grown for export. Hogs and poultry are raised. Some 50,000 persons are engaged in coastal fishing, yielding an annual catch of approximately 100,000 tons.

The port of Hong Kong handled more than 18 million tons of freight in 1973. Kai Tak is the international airport. Hong Kong has 36 km of railroad track and 950 km of highways.

The chief exports are clothing, fabrics, electronic and electrical goods, metal products, toys, plastic goods, jewelry, and watches. The leading imports are foodstuffs (over one-half from the People’s Republic of China), fuel, jewelry (for reexport), machinery, equipment, fabrics, and yarn. Hong Kong’s main trading partners are the USA, Japan, the People’s Republic of China (mainly imports, some of them for reexport), Great Britain, and the Federal Republic of Germany.

Hong Kong is an international monetary and financial center, with 74 banks and seven stock exchanges in 1975. Through banking, foreign trade, and other operations, a significant amount of the foreign currency flows from Hong Kong into the People’s Republic of China. Several of Hong Kong’s banks are controlled by the Chinese, and the Bank of China has established a branch there. The People’s Republic of China also owns a number of department stores, hotels, and other enterprises in Hong Kong. A tourist center, Hong Kong was visited by some 1.3 million persons in 1975. The monetary unit is the Hong Kong dollar.


Education and cultural affairs. In 1966, 21.8 percent of the population over ten years of age was illiterate. There is no compulsory education. Kindergartens, most of them private, are available to children between the ages of three and five. In 1972 about 130,900 children were enrolled in kindergartens. At the age of five or six, children may enroll in a six-year primary school. The seven-year secondary school is divided into two cycles of five and two years each. Subjects are taught in Chinese and English. In the 1972–73 school year 748,300 pupils were enrolled in primary schools, and 255,500 students attended secondary schools. Vocational training is available to those who have received one to five years of primary education. In the 1970–71 school year 14,900 students were enrolled in vocational schools. Higher education is offered by the University of Hong Kong (founded 1911), the Chinese University (1963), the Technical Institute (1969), and Hong Kong Polytechnic (1972). In the 1972–73 academic year 12,600 students were enrolled in institutions of higher learning.

The largest libraries in Hong Kong are the municipal public library and its branches (174,500 volumes in English and more than 347,000 in Chinese) and the libraries affiliated with the universities. Other cultural facilities include a municipal museum and an art gallery, founded in 1962.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Hong Kong

Official name: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region [of China]

Internet country code: .hk

Flag description: Red with a stylized, white, five-petal bauhinia flower in the center

Geographical description: Eastern Asia, bordering the South China Sea and China

Total area: 426 sq. mi. (1,104 sq. km.)

Climate: Subtropical monsoon; cool and humid in winter, hot and rainy from spring through summer, warm and sunny in fall

Nationality: noun: Chinese or Hong Konger; adjective: Chi­nese or Hong Konger

Population: 6,980,412 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Chinese 94.9%, Filipino 2.1%, other 3%

Languages spoken: Cantonese (official) 89.2%, other Chi­nese dialects 6.4%, English (official) 3.2%, other 1.2%

Religions: Indigenous religions 90%, Christian 10%

Legal Holidays:

Easter MondayApr 25, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Apr 22, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Apr 5, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 10, 2023
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Holy SaturdayApr 23, 2011; Apr 7, 2012; Mar 30, 2013; Apr 19, 2014; Apr 4, 2015; Mar 26, 2016; Apr 15, 2017; Mar 31, 2018; Apr 20, 2019; Apr 11, 2020; Apr 3, 2021; Apr 16, 2022; Apr 8, 2023
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment DayJul 1
Labour DayMay 1
National DayOct 1
New Year's DayJan 1
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.

Hong Kong

1. a Special Administrative Region of S China, with some autonomy; formerly a British Crown Colony: consists of Hong Kong Island, leased by China to Britain from 1842 until 1997, Kowloon Peninsula, Stonecutters Island, the New Territories (mainland), leased by China in 1898 for a 99-year period, and over 230 small islands; important entrepôt trade and manufacturing centre, esp for textiles and other consumer goods; university (1912). It retains its own currency, the Hong Kong dollar. Administrative centre: Victoria. Pop.: 7 182 000 (2005 est.). Area: 1046 sq. km (404 sq. miles)
2. an island in Hong Kong region, south of Kowloon Peninsula: contains the capital, Victoria. Pop.: 1 337 800 (2001). Area: 75 sq. km (29 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005