Hong Kong consists of 237 small islands off the southeast coast of the mainland of China and a small peninsula adjoining Guangdong Province on the mainland between 22°29′ and 22°37′ N and 113°52′ and 114°30′ E . With a total area, including reclamation, of 1,068 sq km (412 sq mi), it comprises the island of Hong Kong and adjacent islands, 79 sq km (30 sq mi); the Kowloon Peninsula, 11 sq km (4 sq mi); and the New Territories (a leased section of the Chinese mainland) and the remaining islands, 978 sq km (377 sq mi). Most of Hong Kong territory is rocky, hilly, and deeply eroded. The climate is subtropical, with hot and humid summers. Rainfall is heavy, and there are occasional typhoons.
Total population, which was under 600,000 in 1945, was approximately 7.3 million in 2002. Some 60% of Hong Kong's residents in 1996 were born there. The phenomenal increase since World War II (1939–45) resulted primarily from a large influx of mainland Chinese. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, hundreds of thousands of "boat people" arrived from Vietnam. Most have been resettled in other countries, and by mid-1987 only 8,500 remained in camps. In the summer of that year, however, Hong Kong faced another influx of Vietnamese, most of them ethnic Chinese. These people—more than 6,000 of them— had fled to China after the Vietnam war but found it difficult to assimilate there.
The overall population density in 2002 was 5,800 per sq km (14,500 per sq mi). About 95% of the inhabitants are Chinese, and about 95% of the people live in metropolitan areas. Chinese (Cantonese dialect) is the principal spoken language; both Chinese and English are official languages. Taoists, Confucianists, and Buddhists constitute a majority of the population. The Christian population (10%) is split about evenly between Roman Catholics and Protestants. There are also Muslim and Hindu communities (1%). The capital is Victoria, commonly known as Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has regular shipping, air, cable, and wireless services to every part of the world. Government-maintained roads span more than 1,830 km (1,135 mi). The mile-long Cross Harbour Road Tunnel connecting Hong Kong Island to Kowloon was opened in 1972, and the Lion Rock Tunnels link Kowloon with Sha Tin; the Aberdeen Tunnel beneath Hong Kong Island entered service in 1982. The government-owned Mass Transit Railway, a 38.6 km (24 mi) subway system, was begun in November 1975 and started operations in October 1979. The government also owns and operates a 56-km (35-mi) rail line, known as the Kowloon-Canton Railway. The railroad links up with the rail system of Guangdong Province and constitutes a major land-entry route to China; passenger service, suspended in 1949, was resumed in 1979. The Kowloon-Canton Railway operates a 34-km (21-mi) light rail system for the New Territories; as of 2001, it connected to the China railway system.
Hong Kong has one of the finest natural harbors. There are deepwater berths in Kowloon Peninsula and in Hong Kong; a container terminal at Kwaichung in Kowloon handles some 60% of Hong Kong's exports. An extensive ferry service connects Hong Kong's islands; hydrofoils provide service to Macau. The Hong Kong airport, Kai Tak, is the world's fourth largest in terms of passenger traffic; it can handle upwards of 27 million passengers a year. A new airport, Chep Lap Kok, a US $20 billion project that included bridges, highways, tunnels, and a high-speed railway, opened in 1998. The first phase of the airport project, the West Kowloon expressway connecting the airport to Hong Kong Island, opened in February 1997. In April that year, another link—the Tsing Ma Bridge, the longest suspension bridge for road and rail travel in the world—opened with lavish ceremonies. Three days later, a tunnel with capacity for 180,000 cars a day opened to provide another link between Hong Kong Island and the West Kowloon expressway.
A bleak fisherman's island for most of its early history, Hong Kong was occupied in 1841 by the British. Formal cession by China was made in 1842 by the Treaty of Nanking. The Kowloon Peninsula and adjacent islands were added in 1860, and in 1898, the New Territories were leased from China for 99 years. Hong Kong fell under Japanese occupation from 25 December 1941 to 30 August 1945. Negotiations between the UK and China culminated in an agreement on 26 September 1984 under which sovereignty over the entire colony would be transferred to China as of 1 July 1997. For a 50-year period, Hong Kong would be a Special Administrative Region and would retain its capitalist economy, its political rights, and its general way of life. A Basic Law, forming a constitution for this period, took effect in 1990.
In the interim, the colony was ruled by a UK-appointed governor, with an advisory Executive Council headed by the local commander of UK forces, and an appointed Legislative Council presided over by the governor. Chris Patten, appointed governor in 1992, held the post until the transfer of control to China 1 July 1997. The Urban Council of 30 members (15 elected and 15 appointed by the governor) dealt primarily with municipal affairs, and the government secretariat was responsible for the work of some 40 executive departments. The public sector's share of GDP decreased steadily after 1973. Under a 1981 defense agreement, about three-fourths of the cost of the maintenance of a garrison of 8,945 troops (including four Gurkha battalions) in Hong Kong was borne by the Hong Kong government. The currency unit is the Hong Kong dollar; exchange rates as of January 2002 were HK $1 = US $7.798; US $1 = HK $0.1282).
Located at a major crossroads of world trade, Hong Kong has become a center of commerce, shipping, industry, and banking. Rapid industrialization, accelerated by the influx of new labor, skills, and capital, changed the pattern of the economy after World War II. While heavy industries, such as shipbuilding and ship repairing, iron, and steel, remain important, light industries—especially watches, clocks, toys, and electronics— have developed more rapidly in recent years. The service sector has also experienced growth; as of 1999, approximately 86% of Hong Kong's GDP derived from services. In 2001, the gross domestic product (GDP) stood at US $180 billion, with annual growth from 1989–97 averaging about 5% per year; in 1998, economic difficulties in Asia resulted in a 5% decline in GDP in Hong Kong. By 2000, the economy had recovered somewhat, when the growth rate stood at 10%, but was estimated to be 0% for 2001 and 1.8% for 2002.
Less than 10% of the total land area is used for farming, most of which is intensive vegetable cultivation. Agriculture does not represent a significant portion of Hong Kong's GPD, and most of Hong Kong's agricultural produce is imported. Hong Kong is among the top export markets for US produce.
Electricity is supplied by two franchise companies. Water resources, for long a serious deficiency, have been increased by
converting Plover Cove into a lake. About one-quarter of the water supply is purchased annually from China.
Imports in 2001 were valued at US $203 billion, and exports and reexports at US $191 billion. As one of the world's largest banking centers, Hong Kong receives a continuous flow of outside capital. The Hong Kong Association of Banks was created in January 1981 to regulate charges and deposit interest rates and oversee banking standards. There is no central bank; currency is issued by two commercial banks. In addition to the licensed banks, many Chinese firms handle Chinese remittances from overseas.
Hong Kong is self-supportive except for external defense. Revenues in 2001 were at US $22.9 billion, derived mainly from internal taxation and import duties. Government expenditures, including US $465 in capital expenditure, amounted to US $24.6 billion in 2000/01.
Tourism was an important industry prior to 1997, and remained so after the transfer of Hong Kong to China. About one-fourth of the total number of tourists travel to Hong Kong from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, with another one-fourth from Japan.
Main line telephones numbered about 3.8 million in 1999; mobile cellular telephones numbered about 3.7 million that year. Broadcasting services are provided by a government station, Radio Television Hong Kong, and by commercial operators. Broadcasting services are in both Chinese and English. More than 90% of all households have one or more television sets. The Hong Kong press included 734 newspapers and periodicals. Almost all the newspapers are in Chinese; five are English-language dailies.
The infant mortality rate was 5.73 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2002. The average life expectancy as of 2002 was 79.8 years (females, 82.69 years and males 77.1 years). In 1995, there were
4.7 hospital beds per 1,000 population, and the daily cost of a hospital bed in a public hospital was $60.
The Hong Kong Housing Authority plans, builds, and manages public housing developments. About 40% of the population lived in public and aided housing as of the late 1990s.
In September 1980, education until the age of 15 was made compulsory; six years of primary and three years of secondary schooling are provided by the government free of charge. Schools are of three types: Chinese, English, and Anglo-Chinese. Prevocational training was offered in more than a dozen government-run institutions. Student enrollment in primary and secondary school is about a quarter of the population. Higher education is provided primarily by the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Hong Kong Polytechnic and the City Polytechnic of Hong Kong also provides post-secondary education for the colony's residents. As of the late 1990s, approximately 15% of the population had received education beyond secondary school, and 92% of the population was literate.
Macau (Macao) is situated on the south coast of China, at the mouth of the Pearl (Zhu) River, almost directly opposite Hong Kong, which is about 65 km (40 mi) away. Located at 22°6′ to 22°13′ N and 113°33′ to 113°37′ E , Macau consists of a peninsula, about 5 km (3 mi) long and 1.6 km (1 mi) wide, and two small islands, Taipa and Coloane. The total area is about 16 sq km (6 sq mi), and the total coastline is 41 km (25 mi). The climate is subtropical, with high humidity from April to October, when Macau receives most of its rainfall. Daily maximum temperatures average 29° C (84° F ) during the summer; normal daily temperatures are less than 20° C (68° F ) during the winter months.
Macau's population was estimated at 461,833 in mid-2002, down from 496,837 in mid-1996. The population density of over 29,000 per sq km (79,000 per sq mi) was among the highest in the world. Chinese, many of them refugees from the People's Republic of China (PRC) before Macau reverted to the PRC in 1999, constitute 95% of the total; the remaining 5% are Portuguese or of mixed Chinese-Portuguese ancestry. Large-scale movement of Chinese in and out of Macau has inevitably affected the economic and social life of the territory. The common language is Chinese, usually spoken in the Cantonese or Mandarin dialect. Portuguese is spoken by government officials, and some English, French, and Spanish are also understood. As of 1997, Buddhism (50%) and Roman Catholicism (15%) are the dominant religions.
In 1996 there were about 50 km (31 mi) of highways. A causeway links Taipa and Coloane islands, and a 2.7-km (1.7-mi) bridge connects Macau and Taipa. Macau's main asset is its harbor; ferries, hydrofoils, and jetfoils offer shuttle service between Macau and Hong Kong. In 1994, a 240-km (149-mi) road connecting Macau and Hong Kong opened, running through Guangdong Province in the PRC.
Macau is the oldest European settlement in the Far East. The first Portuguese attempts to establish relations with China were made in the early 16th century. In 1557, the Chinese authorities agreed to Portuguese settlement of Macau, with leaseholder rights. The Portuguese, however, treated Macau as their possession and established a municipal government in the form of a senate of the local inhabitants. Disputes concerning jurisdiction and administration developed. In 1833, Macau together with Timor became an overseas province of Portugal under the control of the governor-general of Goa, and in 1849, Portugal succeeded in having Macau declared a free port. On 26 March 1887, China confirmed perpetual occupation and governance of Macau and its dependencies by Portugal, but the question of the delimitation of the boundaries was left unsettled.
As the only neutral port on the South China Sea during World War II (1939–45), Macau enjoyed a modicum of prosperity. In 1949, the government of the PRC renounced the "unequal treaty" granting Portuguese suzerainty over Macau. Civil disturbances in late 1966 between Macau police and Chinese leftist groups resulted in concessions to the territory's pro-China elements. The 1974 military coup in Portugal led to a constitutional change in Macau's status from a Portuguese province to a "special territory." In January 1976, Portugal's remaining few hundred troops were withdrawn from Macau. China and Portugal established diplomatic ties in 1980. In March 1987, the PRC and Portugal reached an agreement for the return of Macau to the PRC on 20 December 1999. The PRC has guaranteed not to interfere in Macau's capitalist economy and way of life for a period of 50 years.
Prior to and immediately following Macau's transfer to PRC control, the unit of currency was the Macau pataca ( P ) of 100 avos; Hong Kong dollars also circulated freely. There are coins of 10, 20, and 50 avos and 1 and 5 patacas, and notes of 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 patacas. The pataca is linked to the Hong Kong dollar at the rate of HK $1= P 1.03. Corporate taxes and import duties are important sources of revenue; major expenditures are for finance, security, education, and health and welfare. Until December 1999, Macau was ruled by a governor appointed by Portugal, although it was empowered to make its own laws, appoint and control its own civil service, and contract directly for foreign loans.
Macau's economy is consumer-oriented. There is little agriculture, and the territory is heavily dependent on imports from China for food, fresh water, and electricity. Important economic sectors are commerce, tourism, gambling, fishing, and light industry. There are small- and medium-scale enterprises concerned especially with the finishing of imported semimanufactured goods, in particular the manufacture of clothing, ceramics, electronic equipment, toys, and fireworks, and the printing and dyeing of cloth and yarn.
Macau's historic role has been that of a gateway for southern China. It has close trade relations with neighboring Hong Kong, another free port. Gold trading, formerly a major facet in Macau's economy, virtually came to a halt in 1974–75 following Hong Kong's decision to lift its own restrictions on gold trading. The principal exports were textiles, clothing, toys, electronics, cement, fireworks, footwear, and machinery. Principal export partners in 2000 were the United States, 43%; European Union (EU), 28%; China, 10%; and Hong Kong, 7%. The principal imports for domestic use are clothing, textiles, yarn, minerals, electrical machinery, fuel, and livestock. Total imports in 2000 were valued at $2.3 billion, of which China provided 41%; Hong Kong, 15%; EU, 10%; Taiwan, 10%; and Japan, 6%.
Government schools are operated mainly for the children of civil servants and wealthier families, while poor Chinese students are educated in schools supported by China. Macau's University of East Asia opened in 1981. The Medical and Health Department, although critically understaffed, operates a 400-bed hospital. The 800-bed Kiang Vu Hospital has a largely China-trained staff.
Macau has six postal stations, two telephone stations, and two telegraph stations. Macau has 2 FM stations and has access to satellite communications. There are newspapers published in Chinese and Portuguese. Macau receives television broadcasts from Hong Kong.
With its varied gambling facilities, gambling provides about 60% of government revenue. Travelers must have a valid passport and a visa, which is generally purchased at the point of disembarkation. After the transfer of Macau to Chinese control in 1999, there was an increase in tourists arrivals from China.