Hong Kong – Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

City Overview

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is an autonomous administrative region of the People’s Republic of China. While it is not an independent state, it has extensive administrative and economic management rights, and even has its own currency – a kind of city-state.

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated, congested, and polluted cities in the world.

Hong Kong area includes one peninsula and many islands in the South China Sea. It is located in the delta of the Zhujiang (Pearl River) near the city of Guangzhou and close to the Macau administrative region. Until July 1, 1997, Hong Kong retained its status as a British colony. The model of administrative governance in both Hong Kong and Guangzhou was developed by Deng Xiaoping, who had not given up hope of its possible reunification with Taiwan. In essence, the system of government implied recognition of the sovereignty of China, in which communism had established itself, while at the same time maintaining its capitalist system.

The districts of Hong Kong and Macao not only adhere to the principles of capitalism, but also have independent judicial and administrative systems, as well as their own borders and customs posts. Hong Kong became a British colony after the First Opium War (1840-1842).

Hong Kong Harbour

Hong Kong harbour

The Port of Hong Kong, one of the largest in the world, is the third largest port in the world in terms of cargo turnover and has enormous container storage facilities.

Hong Kong Island and part of the Kowloon Peninsula were given to the British Empire forever in 1860, and in 1898 the so-called New Territories were added. During World War II, Japanese occupation was established here, but at the end of the war the British regained control of the colony. In 1997, the British ceded the rights to it to China, on the condition that the principle of “one country, two systems” was observed (in 1999 the Macau area received the same status).

Hong Kong’s political structure

Hong Kong has its own constitution (the Basic Law of Hong Kong) which grants it broad autonomy in all spheres except for foreign policy and civil defense. In reality, Hong Kong is a kind of city-state. The Basic Law guarantees the preservation of the capitalist system and all rights and freedoms for 50 years from the signing of the sovereignty agreement.

The duties formerly performed by a governor appointed by the Queen of Great Britain are now performed by the Chief Minister, elected indirectly by 800 members of the business elite. The fairness of this electoral system is questionable, in particular, its change is advocated by those organizations seeking a fully democratic political system.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a state-of-the-art transport system and a highly developed infrastructure in general.

Legislative power is vested in the Legislative Council, which consists of 70 parliamentarians, 35 of whom are elected by the people in direct general elections and another 35 are representatives of the functional districts. Although the Basic Law stipulates that after the transition period, all parliamentarians should be elected according to the rules of universal suffrage, the Chinese government opposes this. Accordingly, the 35 parliamentarians elected in the general elections represent democratic parties, while the remaining 35 seats are given to politicians who defend the interests of the Chinese government.

DID YOU KNOW THAT… Not only does Hong Kong have a well-developed transport system covering almost every corner of the district, but it’s also the world leader in public transport, with 90% of Hong Kongers using it regularly.

Macau district

Situated on the opposite bank of the Zhujiang River, Macau remained a colony of Portugal until 1999, more than 450 years ago. As in the case of Hong Kong, the district was granted broad autonomy, and the basic law guaranteed that the capitalist system in place today would continue for at least 50 years, and required that the judicial system be subject to the Portuguese penal code rather than the Chinese code The head of the district executive is approved by the Chinese central government after being nominated by an election committee. The Legislative Assembly consists of 33 parliamentarians: 14 are elected by direct universal suffrage, 12 seats are won by indirect election, and the remaining 7 seats are held by persons appointed by the head of government.

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Big Buddha

The Big Buddha

Although the demands of modern times have partially erased traces of the past, many monuments, especially temples, have been preserved out of respect for Hong Kong traditions. Pictured here is the Big Buddha, a 34-meter tall statue erected on Lantau Island.

Challenging moments in Hong Kong’s history

Archaeological evidence from Hong Kong suggests that the area was inhabited as early as 30,000 years ago. The area was incorporated into China in the 3rd century B.C. during the Qin Dynasty. Salt and pearls were the main natural resources of the area. The exploitation of these resources contributed to the prosperity of the city of Guangzhou in the 10th and 13th centuries. When the Mongols invaded China, the imperial family was forced to move to Lantau Island. In search of shelter, many Chinese followed them here, fleeing the Mongol invasion, famine, and war. Thus, the population of the area increased significantly. The arrival of the British in the area resulted in the outbreak of the First Opium War and the British occupation. In 1842, after the signing of the Treaty of Nanjing, Hong Kong was finally ceded to Britain.

Over time, it became a franco port where people from all over the world, including China, came. Compared to the British, the locals were considered second-class citizens. At the same time, a small group of well-to-do Chinese with some influence over the government had formed here. According to the 1865 census, of the 125,000 inhabitants of Hong Kong only 2,000 were Europeans and Americans. Less than half a century later, the population had grown to 1.6 million. In 1898, the British Empire achieved the annexation of the New Territories (Kowloon Peninsula and Lantau Island), which it leased for 99 years.

In July 1997, Great Britain officially transferred sovereignty over Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China, ending 156 years of British rule.

Geography and demography of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is located on the southern coast of China, 60 km east of Macau. In addition to Hong Kong Island, part of the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories, it encompasses more than 200 smaller islands. The largest island is Lantau. 75% of the area is protected areas. Hong Kong’s population of more than seven million is concentrated on the remaining 25% of the land area. Moreover, half of the population occupies what are known as the New Territories. The area has a tropical monsoon climate characterized by cold and dry winters, hot and rainy summers, and occasional tropical cyclones. Average temperature varies from 17-29 °С.

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With a population density of 6,480 people/km, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet. Hong Kong has a very low total fertility rate (0.94), but one of the highest life expectancy rates. Hong Kong’s main language is Cantonese. English is a second official language but is rarely used in daily life. 95% of locals are ethnic Chinese, and natives of Europe account for 1.5% of the population. Hong Kong’s main religion is Confucianism, followed by Christianity.

The culture of the society adheres mainly to Chinese traditions, many of which have been Europeanized today. It is noteworthy that the area has managed to preserve long-standing traditions that began before Mao Zedong came to power, because many refugees who kept these traditions took refuge in Hong Kong.

Because the Maoist government never intervened in the cultural life of Hong Kong, all forms of art have reached a high level of development.

Due to the orographic features of the area, Hong Kong lacks land suitable for construction. Consequently, there is an abundance of tall buildings in the cities. Most skyscrapers are erected in Hong Kong itself, also known as the most vertical city in the world.

The country in numbers: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

PART OF THE WORLD: Asia Capital City: none Territory: 1104 km Population: 7,182,724 people* Currency: Hong Kong dollar LIFE LIFE PER PERIOD: 82.78 years* LITERITY: 94.6%* GDP: $381.7 billion* GDP PER PER CAPITAL US$52,700* LEVEL OF DEATH: 3.1%* FORM OF GOVERNANCE: Administrative Region NATIONAL HOLIDAY: July 1, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day *According to 2013,2014,2009,2013,2013 and 2013 respectively

Provinces of China.

Hong Kong (Xianggang) on a map of China

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region consists mainly of three main parts: Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories. The narrow strip of water separating Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula, Victoria Harbor, is one of the deepest natural seaports in the world. Hong Kong, along with its 260 islands and peninsulas, lies in the South China Sea and the mouth of the Zhujiang River.

Hong Kong’s terrain consists mainly of hills, sometimes growing into mountains with steep slopes. The highest point of the area is Mount Tai Mo Shan ( 大帽山 dà mào shān ) at 973 meters above sea level. The lowlands are in the northwestern part of the New Territories.

Hong Kong is located 60 km east of Macao, on the opposite side of the Zhujiang River estuary, and has a land border with Shenzhen to the north. Many lands are used as nature parks and nature reserves.

Climate

In winter, Hong Kong is cool and generally rainfree; in summer, it’s hot and humid. Around 80% of rain falls between May and September. Average temperatures range from 16°C in January-February to 28°C in July-August.

January and February are cloudy with occasional northerly winds. Temperatures are often below +10°C in urban areas. Frosts occasionally hit in the uplands and the New Territories. March and April are fairly comfortable, although there are occasional spikes of high humidity. Fog and rain are frequent at the higher elevations, which the southeast of the area is rich in.

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May through August is a hot and humid period with occasional showers and thunderstorms. Temperatures in the afternoon often exceed 31°C, while at night they usually remain at 26°C with high humidity. Summer is also typhoon season, when tropical storms bring rain and strong winds from the South China Sea.

November and December are pleasant breezes, plenty of sunshine and comfortable temperatures.

Historical Info

The name “Hong Kong” (Chinese for “Xianggang” 香港 xiānggǎng ) literally means “fragrant harbor” and comes from the area around present-day Aberdeen on Hong Kong Island, where aromatic wood products and incense were once traded.

Archaeological research indicates human existence in this area as far back as 35,000 to 39,000 years ago.

In 214 BC, Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China, conquered the Baiyue tribes in the Jiaozhi area (modern Lianguang) and incorporated this territory into imperial China for the first time. Later, in 111 BC, the Han dynasty consolidated Hong Kong under its rule. At that time, the population of the island increased dramatically. Salt mining flourished.

At the time of the Mongol invasion in 1276, the southern Song dynasty moved its throne to Fujian and then, when it was taken, headed for Kowloon (Hong Kong). The ship carrying the minor emperor Bin and officials sank after his defeat at the Battle of Yamen.

The first European set foot in Hong Kong in 1513. He was the Portuguese explorer Jorge Alvares. After the discovery of trade in southern China, many Portuguese gained a foothold in Hong Kong and built military fortifications, but were expelled by Chinese troops.

In 1839, the Celestial Empire’s refusal to import opium led to the First Opium War between China and Great Britain. Following China’s defeat on January 20, 1841, Hong Kong Island was occupied by British troops. On August 29, 1842, it was formally ceded in perpetuity to the British, and a year later Britain formally established the colony and founded the city of Victoria.

After further disputes over the opium trade, it was the turn of the Second Opium War – now with England and France. After the defeat, the Celestial Empire was forced to give the Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island to England for perpetual use. In 1898, Great Britain leased the adjacent territory in the north of the Kowloon Peninsula and Lantau Island from China for 99 years, which were called the New Territories.

In 1894, the bubonic plague spread from mainland China to Hong Kong, mowing down 15 to 25 percent of the island’s population. In 1914 there was a mass exodus of Chinese fearing attacks on the British colonies. Nevertheless, the population of the island continued to grow, in 1916 it was 530,000.

In 1937, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Hong Kong was declared a neutral territory. Despite this, Japanese troops moved from Canton, crossed the Shenzhen River and invaded Hong Kong on December 8, 1941.

The battle ended with the surrender of the British and Canadian defenders to the Japanese on December 25, 1941, a day the locals nicknamed Black Christmas. Japan surrendered, and Britain regained control of the colony on August 15, 1945.

With the formation of the People’s Republic of China, British authorities, fearing attacks from mainland China, drew a clear border and created a buffer zone between Hong Kong and the PRC. In the 1950s, border crossings began to operate.

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Severe droughts shook Hong Kong in the 1960s, the worst of which came in 1964, when water was only available for four hours every fourth day.

In the 1990s, Hong Kong became the crown jewel of the East – one of the world’s three financial centers (along with New York and London), a major port and logistics center, and a factory for popular songs and movies.

In light of the expiration in 20 years of the lease of the New Territories, the British government began to discuss with the PRC authorities the problem of Hong Kong’s sovereignty from the early 1980s. On July 1, 1997, the island returned to China as a special administrative region. Under the treaty between Beijing and London, Hong Kong retained a market economy, a Basic Law based on British law, independent representation in international organizations (e.g., WTO, WHO), and independent political power (except for foreign diplomacy and defense). It is stipulated that Hong Kong will have these privileges for at least 50 years from the date of return to the PRC.

What to see

Clock Tower

Clock Tower, photo

The old tower, 44 meters tall, was erected in 1915 as part of the terminus of the Canton-Kowloon railway line. The once bustling station is long gone, but the red brick and granite tower still stands as an elegant reminder of the steam train era. It has also become an unforgettable symbol for the millions of Chinese immigrants who passed through here to begin new lives not only in Hong Kong, but in other parts of the world as they sailed from the city’s harbor.

Sik Sik Yun Wong Tai Sin Temple

The Wong Tai Sin Temple grants all kinds of wishes – perhaps this was one of the reasons for its popularity. Home to three religions (Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism), its natural setting and beautiful ornaments make it both a popular tourist attraction and a religious center.

The temple was erected in memory of a famous monk of the past, Wong Tai Xing (also known as Huang Chu-ping), who was born in the 4th century and became a deity in Heng Shan (Red Pine Hill). In 1915, the Taoist priest Liang Ren-an brought the sacred portrait of Wong Tai Sin from Guangdong Province in southern China to Hong Kong. Now housing this precious portrait, the Wong Tai Sin Temple is a place where people try to guess the future and pray for good fortune and divine help.

Feng Shui enthusiasts may notice structures representing the five geomantic elements: Bronze Pavilion (metal), Archive Hall (wood), Yuk Yik Fountain (water), Yue Hong Temple (fire), where the Illuminating Buddha Lamp is worshipped, and Earth Shaft (earth). Other areas of the complex include the Hall of the Three Saints, the Confucian Hall, and the extravagantly colorful Garden of Good Wishes, which is lavishly decorated in the Chinese style.

Chimsachey

Starting with the colonial-era monument, the Clock Tower, all the way to Hong Hom along the Chimsachey waterfront, you’ll find attractions like the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, the Hong Kong Space Museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Avenue of the Stars . But the most delightful and exciting attraction here is the bustling Victoria Harbour with the contours of the vast city floating above the water.

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Hong Kong Exhibition Centre

With its vast curtain of glass and 40,000 square meters of aluminium roof shaped like soaring seabirds, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre is a vital landmark on Hong Kong Island. Internationally renowned for its limited space, this fairground uses cutting-edge construction techniques worthy of all praise.

While Jackie Chan fans may know this building as the setting for the dramatic grand finale of New Police Story, it was also the backdrop for an event of far greater significance: the handover ceremony on June 30, 1997 – when the former British colony of Hong Kong was handed over to the People’s Republic of China.

Jin Zi Jing Square

Jin Zi Jing Square, photo

The bauhinia flower is the emblem of Hong Kong. The sculpture of the Bauhinia Blossom is installed in Jin Zi Jing Square as a gift from the central government on the occasion of the reclaiming of Hong Kong in 1997, a precedent of great significance to the largest nation in the world and marked as one of the landmark events of the 20th century.

Today, the square is very popular with Chinese tourists, who come to take pictures of the Reunification Monument, which bears the calligraphic inscriptions of President Jiang Zemin, who represented China during the handover, and to enjoy the splendor and symbolism of the daily flag-raising ceremony with picturesque Victoria Harbor as a backdrop.

Temple Street Night Market

As the sun sets over the horizon traders are already laying out their wares and opera singers and fortune tellers begin their action. Welcome to the Temple Street Night Market, a popular street bazaar named after the Tin Hau Temple located in the center of the street – a place so steeped in traditional atmosphere that it has become the perfect setting for many movies.

Trinkets, tea utensils, electronics, watches, men’s clothing, jade and antiques are carefully rummaged through and bought with bargaining, while rice in clay pots, seafood, noodles and other treats are consumed with gusto.

The Temple Street Night Market is a consummate example of the theatrical fairgrounds of the Middle Kingdom and simply a colorful nighttime show.

Alley of Stars

Avenue of the Stars, Bruce Lee, Hong Kong, China, photos

Thanks to the efforts of Hong Kong’s movie industry, many in Asia and farther afield are familiar with the city’s attractions without ever having been here. Alley of Stars pays tribute to the names that have helped make Hong Kong the “Hollywood of the East,” while presenting visitors with a panoramic view of the city’s most popular landscapes.

With plaques, celebrity handprints, descriptive milestones and a life-size statue of Bruce Lee, the Avenue of Stars is a fitting representation of the glamorous world of Hong Kong’s film industry, glittering with the lights of Victoria Harbour’s skyscrapers.

It’s always lively, with up to 30 performances every month, including concerts, dramas and dances. It’s also the perfect vantage point for watching the Symphony of Lights multimedia show.

When it’s best to go

The best time to travel in Hong Kong is March-April and October-November, when the days are usually warm and crisp and the wind carries the smoke from the mainland chimneys in a different direction, making the air clear and clean.

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