Hong Kong

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Template:Hong Kong infobox The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (Traditional Chinese: 中華人民共和國香港特別行政區; Simplified Chinese: 中华人民共和国香港特别行政区 pronunciation), is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It is located on the southeastern coast of China.

Hong Kong (香港, also known as Hongkong, which was common in older English-language texts, or Xiānggǎng, in Pinyin) has one of the world's most liberal economies and is a major international centre of finance and trade. A former British colony now administered by the PRC under the "one country, two systems" policy, Hong Kong is constitutionally entitled to a relatively high degree of autonomy; for example, it retains its own legal system, currency, customs, treaty negotiating rights, such as air traffic and aircraft landing rights, and immigration laws. Hong Kong even maintains its own road rules, with traffic continuing to drive on the left. Only national defence and diplomatic relations are responsibilities of the central government in Beijing.

Despite Hong Kong's reversion from British to Chinese rule, the region's English name remains "Hong Kong" (the pronunciation in the local Cantonese language), and not, as some sources suggest, Xiānggǎng (the Mandarin Chinese equivalent).[2]

Contents

History

Main article: History of Hong Kong

Even though Hong Kong has been occupied since the Neolithic Age, the area now known as Hong Kong have been crucial to the national safety of Mainland since Tang and Song dynasties. After that, the attention of Hong Kong fell, and only began to attract the attention of China again and the rest of the world in the 19th century when it was ceded to Britain after the Opium Wars. Hong Kong was first visited by a European in 1513, the Portuguese mariner Jorge Álvares. Álvares began trading with the Chinese, and the Portuguese continued to make periodic trade stops at various locations up and down the coast.

Kowloon Peninsula south of Boundary Street and Stonecutter's Island were ceded to the British in 1860 under the Convention of Peking after the Second Opium War. Various adjacent lands, known as the New Territories (including New Kowloon and Lantau Island), were then leased by Britain for 99 years, beginning on 1 July 1898 and ending on 30 June 1997. Hong Kong became a crown colony in 1843. For the first twenty years there was little contact between the European and Chinese communities. The first specially recruited Hong Kong civil servants to be taught Cantonese were recruited in 1862, markedly improving relations.

File:1945 liberation of Hong Kong at Cenotaph.jpg
The liberation of Hong Kong in 1945 was celebrated at the Cenotaph in Victoria with the raising of the Union Flag and the Flag of the Republic of China.

Tea, silk, and other Asian luxury goods were introduced in Europe by the Portuguese, and by the mid-18th century, these items were in high demand, particularly tea. The British, challenging China's near monopoly on the tea industry, invaded China, winning the First Opium War in 1841. During the war, Hong Kong Island was first occupied by the British, and was formally ceded by the Qing Dynasty of China in 1842 under the Treaty of Nanking.

Hong Kong entered a dark age during the Japanese Occupation of World War II, which lasted for three years and eight months. Many Hong Kong people were executed by the Japanese army during the war. The Japanese subsequently surrendered on 15 August 1945. The port was quickly re-opened and welcomed a mass migration of Chinese refugees in 1949 from the civil war and the new Communist government in China.

Hong Kong had been a trade port ever since the British occupation, but its position as an entrepot declined greatly after the United Nations ordered a trade embargo against the People's Republic of China as a result of the Korean War. In response, a textile industry was established, taking advantage of the new pool of workers from China who were willing to work for almost any wage. During this period, the economy grew extremely rapidly. Towards the 1970s, Hong Kong began to move away from the textile industry and develop its financial and banking economy. This led to even greater growth, and Hong Kong quickly became one of the wealthiest territories in the world. Its position as an entrepot was restrengthened since the Open Door Policy was adopted in the PRC in the late 1970s under Deng Xiaoping.

In the 1980s, with the lease on the New Territories running out, the British government of Margaret Thatcher decided to negotiate the question of the sovereignty of Hong Kong. Although the British would have been legally required to transfer only the New Territories to the PRC, Whitehall decided that maintaining a rump colony would not be worthwhile - the majority of Hong Kong's land was in the New Territories, and failure to return the entire colony would doubtless have generated political friction between the UK and PRC.

Pursuant to an agreement known as the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed by the People's Republic of China and the United Kingdom on 19 December 1984, the whole territory of Hong Kong under British colonial rule became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the PRC on 1 July 1997. In the Joint Declaration, the PRC promised that under the "One Country, Two Systems" policy proposed by Deng Xiaoping, the socialist economic system in mainland China would not be practised in Hong Kong, and Hong Kong's previous capitalist system and life-style would remain unchanged for 50 years, or until 2047. Hong Kong would enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except diplomatic affairs and national defence. Hong Kong was transferred to the PRC at the stroke of midnight on 1 July 1997, with the last governor, Chris Patten leaving on the royal yacht. The handover coincided with the large scale collapse of land values in Hong Kong, greatly damaging the bubble economy, as part of the Asian financial crisis. The land values fell in some areas by over half, and the Hang Seng Index fell by over 1,500 points on 28 October, losing 22.8 % of its value in a week. Exacerbating the region's economic problems, Hong Kong was hit badly by the SARS virus in the summer of 2003, especially in the effect that it had on travel to and from Hong Kong.

On 1 July the same year, half a million people marched in the largest protest rally ever aimed at the government of Hong Kong, voicing concerns about a proposed anti-subversion bill that would have eroded freedom of the press, of religion and of association arising from Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, as well as dissatisfaction with the poor state of the economy. Regina Ip, then Secretary for Security, and Antony Leung, then Financial Secretary, were forced to leave office in 2003 under public pressure.

On 10 March 2005, Tung Chee Hwa submitted his resignation as chief executive of Hong Kong. Donald Tsang, the Chief Secretary for Administration of Hong Kong, served as Acting Chief Executive until 25 May, when he, too, resigned from his post to take part in the campaign for the new Chief Executive election. Following an interim government headed by Henry Tang, Tsang was eventually elected as Chief Executive.

Politics and government

File:DSCN2167.JPG
Leung Kwok-hung, a prominent political activist, and other protesters demand release of Aung San Suu Kyi. The Public Order Ordinance requires police permission to hold a demonstration of more than 30 participants.
Main articles: Politics of Hong Kong & Hong Kong Government

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is headed by its Chief Executive, the head of government. This office is currently held by Donald Tsang, who was elected [3] on 16 June 2005. Tsang had held the post of Chief Secretary for Administration prior. Donald Tsang assumed his post on 24 June 2005 in Beijing, China; he will finish the remaining portion of Tung Chee Hwa's last term which ends on 30 June 2007, according to the interpretation of Annex I and Article 46 by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

The election of a new Chief Executive by the 800-member Election Committee was expected to be held on 10 July 2005. On 16 June 2005, Donald Tsang was acclaimed the winner, as the only candidate securing the required 100 nominations from members of the election committee. Tung Chee Hwa, the first Chief Executive, assumed office on 1 July 1997, following his election by a 400-member electoral college. For the second five-year term of the Chief Executive which began in July 2002, Tung was the only nominated candidate and therefore acclaimed.

The PRC set up a Provisional Legislative Council (PLC) just before the handover, and moved to Hong Kong to have its meetings after the handover. It reverted some laws passed by the original Legislative Council, which was formed by means of universal suffrage. The PLC passed some of its own laws, such as the Public Order Ordinance [4], which required permission from police to hold a demonstration where the number of people who participates exceeds 30. Legislative Council elections were held on 24 May 1998, 10 September 2000, and again on 12 September 2004, with the next election scheduled for 2008. According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong's "mini-constitution", the present third term of the Legislative Council has 30 seats directly elected from geographical constituencies, and 30 seats elected from functional constituencies. The 1998, 2000 and 2004 Legislative Council elections were seen as free, open, and widely contested, despite discontent among mainly 'pro-democratic' politicians, who contended that the functional constituency elections and the Election Committee elections (for 1998 and 2000) were undemocratic, as they consider that the electorate for these seats is too narrow.

The civil service of Hong Kong maintains its quality and neutrality, operating without discernible direction from Beijing. Many government and administrative operations are located in Central on Hong Kong Island near the historical location of Victoria City, the site of the original British settlements.

The Right of abode issue sparked debates in 1999, while the controversy over Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23 was the focus of politics in Hong Kong between 2002 and 2003, culminating in a peaceful mass demonstration (over 500,000 demonstrators) on 1 July 2003, after which the government still tried to pass the law to the Legislative Council. But one of the major pro-government parties refused to vote for passing the bill. Thus the government found that the bill could not be passed. So it shelved [5] the drafted law [6] brought forth by Article 23. The focus of controversies [7] shifted [8] to the issue [9] of universal suffrage towards the end of 2003 and in 2004, which was the slogan of another peaceful mass demonstration on 1 July 2004.

On 24 September 2005, twenty-five Hong Kong pro-democracy Legco members, some of whom were previously labelled as traitors by Beijing after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and barred from entering the mainland, crossed the border into the southern province of Guangdong, following an unprecedented invitation by the PRC [10]. The invitation was generally regarded as one of the greatest goodwill gestures from the PRC to the Hong Kong democrats since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.

On 4 December 2005, a demonstration was organised by the Civil Human Rights Front and pro-democracy lawmakers to express concerns about the lack of a working timetable that will allow for universal suffrage in the 2007 and 2008 elections for the Chief Executive and the Legistlative Council respectively. The turnout was reported to be 63,000 by the police, and at least 250,000 by the organisers.

On 22 December 2005, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Donald Tsang, faced two political challanges. The political reforms were rejected by the pen-democratic alliance. The other issue is those arrested and charged following the anti-WTO demonstrations. Most of those arrested are Korean. The Korean foreign relation department has expressed its concerns for Korean citizens in Hong Kong. It cannot be ruled out that the South Korean government would actively pursue diplomatic resolutions if the local courts decisions are not favourable or result in harsh sentences. That may alarm the next Chief Executive upon the termination of Mr. Donald Tsang's term.

Legal system and judiciary

Main articles: Legal system of Hong Kong & Judiciary of Hong Kong

In contrast to mainland China's civil law system, Hong Kong continues to follow the common law tradition established by British colonial rule. Article 84 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong allows Hong Kong's courts to refer to decisions (precedents) rendered by courts of foreign jurisdictions and to invite foreign judges to participate in proceedings of Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal.

Structurally, Hong Kong's court system consists of the Court of Final Appeal which replaced the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the High Court, which is made up of the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance, and the District Court, which includes the Family Court. Other adjudicative bodies include the Lands Tribunal, the Magistrates' Courts, the Juvenile Court, the Coroner's Court, the Labour Tribunal, the Small Claims Tribunal, and the Obscene Articles Tribunal, which is responsible for classifying non-video pornography to be circulated in Hong Kong. Justices of the Court of Final Appeal are appointed by Hong Kong's Chief Executive. The Basic Law of Hong Kong is subject to interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and this power has been invoked three times: the right of abode issue, an interpretation regarding post-2008 election procedures, and an interpretation regarding the length of the term of the Chief Executive.

As in England, lawyers in Hong Kong are classified as barristers and solicitors, where one can choose to practice as either one but not both (but it is possible to switch from one to the other). The vast majority of lawyers are solicitors who are licensed and regulated by the Law Society of Hong Kong. Barristers, on the other hand, are licensed and regulated by the Hong Kong Bar Association. Only barristers are allowed to appear in the Court of Final Appeal and the High Court. Just as the common law system is maintained, so are British courtroom customs such as the wearing of robes and wigs by both judges and lawyers.

Geography

File:Hong Kong relief map with geographic labels.jpg
A relief map of Hong Kong and the southern part of Shenzhen (circa 2000). ([1])
Main articles: Geography of Hong Kong & Ecology of Hong Kong

Hong Kong consists of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories. The Kowloon Peninsula is attached to the New Territories in the north, and the New Territories are in turn connected to mainland China across the Sham Chun River (Shenzhen River). In total, Hong Kong has 236 islands in the South China Sea, of which Lantau is the largest. Hong Kong Island itself is the second largest and also the most populated. Ap Lei Chau is the most densely populated island in the world.

The name "Hong Kong", literally meaning "fragrant harbour", is derived from the area around present-day Aberdeen and Wong Chuk Hang on Hong Kong Island, where fragrant trees were once abundant and exported from. The body of water between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula is Victoria Harbour, one of the deepest natural maritime ports in the world. The landscape of Hong Kong is fairly hilly to mountainous with steep slopes. The highest point in the territory is Tai Mo Shan, at a height of 958 metres (3,142 ft). Lowlands exist in the northwestern part of the New Territories.

Hong Kong is 60 kilometres (37 mi) east of Macau, on the opposite side of the Pearl River Delta and borders the city of Shenzhen in Guangdong Province. Of the territory's 1,102 square kilometres (425 mi²) and nearly 7 million residents, less than 25% is developed; the remaining land is remarkably green and significant portions are reserved as country parks and nature reserves. This is because most live and work in high-rise buildings in the city and surrounding new towns.

Hong Kong's climate is subtropical and prone to monsoons. It is cool and dry in the wintertime which lasts from around January to March, and is hot, humid and rainy from spring through summer. It is warm, sunny, and dry in autumn. Hong Kong occasionally has typhoons. The ecology of Hong Kong is mostly affected by the results of climatic changes. Hong Kong's climate is seasonal due to alternating wind direction between winter and summer. Hong Kong has been geologically stable for millions of years. However, flora and fauna in Hong Kong are altered by climatic change, sea level alternation and human impact. The highest recorded temperature[11] in Hong Kong is 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) while the lowest recorded temperature is 0°C (32°F). The average temperature in the coldest month, February, is 16°C (61°F) while the average temperature in the hottest month, July, is 28°C (82°F).

Hong Kong's climate is subtropical but half of the year is temperate. The territory is situated south of the Tropic of Cancer which is equatable to Hawaii in latitude. In winter, strong and cold winds generate from the north and cool the city; in the summer, the wind's direction reverses and brings the warm and humid air in from the south. This climate can support a tropical rainforest.

Administrative divisions

File:Hk map 18.png
18 districts of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Main article: Districts of Hong Kong

Hong Kong consists of 18 administrative districts:

  1. Islands
  2. Kwai Tsing (Kwai Chung and Tsing Yi)
  3. North
  4. Sai Kung
  5. Sha Tin
  6. Tai Po
  7. Tsuen Wan
  8. Tuen Mun
  9. Yuen Long
  10. Kowloon City
  11. Kwun Tong
  12. Sham Shui Po
  13. Wong Tai Sin
  14. Yau Tsim Mong (Yau Ma Tei, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok)
  15. Central and Western
  16. Eastern
  17. Southern
  18. Wan Chai

Economy

File:Hong Kong Market Crash.jpg
The Hang Seng Index fell by 22.8 % in a week of 28 October 1997 after the real estate bubble economy collapsed, severely damaging the economy.
Main articles: Economy of Hong Kong & Employment in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has one of the least restricted economies in world and is basically duty-free. It is the world's 10th largest [12] trading entity and 11th largest [13] banking centre. The dominant presence of international trade is reflected in the number of consulates located in the territory: As of June 2005, Hong Kong had 107 consulates and consulates-general, more than any other city in the world. Even New York City, host of the United Nations, only has 93 consulates.

The objective of Hong Kong's monetary policy is to maintain currency stability. Given the highly externally oriented nature of the economy, this objective was further defined as a stable external value for the Hong Kong dollar in terms of a linked exchange rate against the US dollar at the rate of HK$7.80 to one United States dollar until 2005, when it was allowed to trade within a band of HK$7.75-$7.85.

Hong Kong has limited natural resources, and most food and raw materials must be imported. In fact, imports and exports (including re-exports) exceed the GDP of Hong Kong. Hong Kong has extensive trade and investment ties with the People's Republic of China which existed even before the handover on 1 July 1997. These ties and its autonomous status enable it to be the middleman between the Republic of China on Taiwan and the mainland. Flights, investment, and trade from Taiwan go through Hong Kong to get to the mainland. The service sector represented 86.5 % [14] of the GDP in 2001. The territory, with a highly sophisticated banking sector and good communication links, hosts the Asian headquarters of many multinational corporations.

At USD 24,080 [15] in 2004, the nominal per capita GDP of Hong Kong is somewhat lower than that of the four big economies of western Europe. However, it would be ranked 11th in terms of per capita GDP (PPP) in the world (USD 32,292), which is even higher than Japan (USD 31,384), making Hong Kong one of the richest territorial regions in Asia.

Growth averaged a strong 8.9% per annum in real terms in the 1970s and 7.2% p.a. in the 1980s. As the economy shifted to services (manufacturing currently accounts for just 4% of GDP), growth slowed to 2.7% p.a. in the 1990s, including a 5.3% decline in 1998, due to the Asian financial crisis' impact on demand in the region. Growth since 2000 has averaged 5.2% p.a. amid strong deflation.

The economy rebounded rapidly, growing by 10 % in 2000. A world-wide global downturn and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak reduced economic growth to 2.3 % in 2002. Thereafter, a boom in tourism from the mainland because of China's easing of travel restrictions, a return of consumer confidence, and a solid rise in exports resulted in the resumption of strong growth in late 2003 and 2004, with growth averaging 6.5% in the first half of 2005.

To further increase economic co-operation between Hong Kong and the mainland, the Individual Visit Scheme was started on 28 July 2003, which allows travellers from some cities in mainland China to visit Hong Kong without an accompanying tour group. As a result, the tourism industry in Hong Kong is booming due to an exponential increase in the number of visitors from mainland China. The upsurge is also boosted by the recent opening of Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.

A revival in both external and domestic demand led to a strong upswing in growth in 2004, surging to 8.2 % for the year. The domestic sector completely shrugged off its earlier sluggishness, and the general weakness of the Hong Kong dollar, when included with the still modest cost and price pressures in Hong Kong, has resulted in a strengthening in Hong Kong's external price competitiveness. In addition, Hong Kong's 68-month-long deflationary spiral, the longest and highest deflation [16] according to Guinness World Records, ended in mid-2004, with consumer price inflation hovering at near zero levels.

Along with Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan, ROC, Hong Kong's fast-paced industrialisation earned it a place as one of the four original East Asian Tigers.

Demographics

File:Ap Liu Street in Shamshuipo.jpg
Hong Kong is home to some of the most densely settled areas of the world. This is the Ap Liu Street in Sham Shui Po where colourful parasols intersperse throughout the pavement.
Main article: Demographics of Hong Kong

The population of Hong Kong increased markedly during the 1990s, reaching 6.94 million in 2005. About 96 % of Hong Kong's population is Chinese, the majority of which are Cantonese. Groups such as the Hakka and Teochew are also substantial. Used in government matters, Cantonese is spoken by most of the local Chinese population at home and in the office, although English is also widely understood and spoken by more than one-third of the population. Since the Handover, a new group of immigrants from mainland China have increased the ethnic diversity of the Chinese population and enhanced the developement of Mandarin in the territory.

The remaining 4 % of the population is composed of non-Chinese, who form a highly visible group, despite their small numbers.

Among these is a significant South Asian population, which includes some of Hong Kong's wealthiest families. Some Nepalis residing in Hong Kong are Gurkhas, who chose to stay after their service to Britain, and their descendants. More than 15,000 Vietnamese, who came to Hong Kong as refugees, have become permanent residents, with the majority of whom surviving on casual work. Around 140,000 Filipinos work in Hong Kong as housekeepers, often known locally as amahs, or feiyungs, with other such workers coming from Thailand and Indonesia. On Sundays and public holidays, thousands of these workers, the majority of whom are women, gather in Central to socialise. There are also a number of Europeans, North Americans, Japanese, and Koreans, largely working in Hong Kong's financial sector. The top three sources of migration to Hong Kong are the Philippines (132,770), Indonesia (95,460), and the United States (31,330).

Hong Kong is the fifth largest metropolitan area of the PRC by population. Considered as a dependency, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated countries/dependencies in the world, with an overall density of more than 6,200 people per km². Hong Kong has a fertility rate of .94 children per woman [17], one of the lowest in the world, and far below the 2.1 children per woman required to maintain an even population level. However, population is continuously growing due to immigration of about 45,000 people per year from mainland China.

Despite the population density, Hong Kong was reported [18] to be one of the greenest cities in Asia. The majority of people live in flats in high-rise buildings. The rest of the open spaces are often covered with parks, woods and shrubs. About 60 % of the land [19] is designated as Country Parks and Nature Reserves. Hiking and camping are popular outdoor activities in Hong Kong's hilly country parks. The irregular and long coastline of Hong Kong also provides many bays and fine beaches for its inhabitants. Environmental concern and awareness is growing, however, as Hong Kong also ranks as one of the most (air-)polluted cities in the world. Estimates are that 70-80% of the city's air pollution comes from other parts of the Pearl River Delta.

Education

Main article: Education in Hong Kong

A former British colony, Hong Kong's education system is based upon that of the United Kingdom, and in particular, the system used in England.

Hong Kong's public schools are operated by the Education and Manpower Bureau of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. [20]

In Hong Kong, there is a non-compulsory three-year kindergarten, which is followed by a compulsory six-year primary education, three-year junior secondary education, and a non-compulsory two-year senior secondary education leading to the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examinations and a two-year matriculation course leading to the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examinations. There are also tertiary institutions offering various bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, other higher diplomas, and associate degree courses.

In general, three types of comprehensive schools exist in Hong Kong. There are government schools, which are relatively rare, and subsidised schools (government-aided schools, grant schools), run by charitable (often Christian, but Buddhist, Taoist, Islamic and Confucian as well) organisations with government funding, to which most students go. Most private schools are run by Christian organisations as well; admissions are based more on academic merit than on financial resources. Outside this system are the schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) and private international schools, which provide an alternative to the high-pressured mainstream education in exchange for much higher tuition fees.

Culture

File:Victoria harbour hk.jpg
Aberdeen Harbour and jetty where one can catch a sampan to the floating restaurant.
Main article: Culture of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is often described as a city where East meets West. This is reflected in all aspects of the culture, but especially in its shopping, nightlife, and dining.

A popular destination for shoppers from around the world, Hong Kong has everything to offer from the latest European fashion to traditional Chinese wares. Malls, department stores, and designer boutiques offer an amazing contrast to the bustling open-air Stanley Market and Jade Market shopping areas. Every district in Hong Kong has old-fashioned stores that sell Chinese herbal medicine. The largest concentration of these shops is along Bonham Strand and Bonham Strand West in Sheung Wan, where all types of pills, plants, and dried animals are for sale.

Hong Kong has an active nightlife centred around two major entertainment districts, Lan Kwai Fong (Central) and Wanchai. Both areas are frequented by expats and locals alike. For a more quiet evening, a trip to Victoria Peak offers a spectacular view of the city. There is also a promenade along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, which is popular among young Chinese couples. Shopping, a form of entertainment for the people of Hong Kong, is even done at nightime as evident in the Temple Street Night Market.

The city's cosmopolitan flavour can also be seen in the wide variety of cuisines available. While different varieties of Chinese selections, especially seafood, are most popular, there also many European, American, Japanese, Korean, and other restaurants. Ethnic dishes served in cha chaan teng and dai pai dong are also popular. The people of Hong Kong take their food seriously and many top chefs make their way to the city to show off their talents to these discriminating diners.

The world famous Hong Kong International Dragonboat Festival, now known as the Circus Capital Stanley Dragon Boat Championships, is a celebration of community that is televised globally.

Religion

Main article: Religion in Hong Kong

Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of religious freedom, a right enshrined and protected through its constitutional document, the Basic Law. The majority of Hong Kong's population practices ancestor worship due to the strong Confucian influence. A sizable Christian community of around 500,000 exists, forming about 10% of the total population; roughly equally divided between Catholics and Protestants. There are also followers of Buddism or Taoism. There are also estimated 70,000 Muslims, between 2,000 and 3,000 Jews, and a few Hindus; Sikhs and Bahá'ís are also represented. Apart from offering religious instructions, many major religious bodies have established schools and provided social welfare facilities.

Hong Kong's religious beliefs are tied to the region's early role as a fishing community. Tin Hau, the protector of seafarers, has been honoured with several temples throughout Hong Kong for at least 300 years. Hung Shing, another protector of seafarers, has also been honoured for centuries. Hong Kongers, especially elder generations, go to Taoist or Buddhist temples to appease the deities and, usually, to ask for compassion or good fortune. Gifts of food, and in particular fruit, are presented, and incense and paper offerings are burnt in respect.

With the transfer of Hong Kong to the PRC, there was significant concerns over religious freedom in Hong Kong. So far, this has proved mostly unfounded - despite the banning of the Falun Gong sect by Beijing in 1999, adherents are still free to practice in Hong Kong. Similarly, the Catholic Church is free to appoint its own bishops in Hong Kong, unlike on mainland China, where the only approved 'Catholic' institution is the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which bishops and priests are appointed by Beijing (though there is also an unofficial and illegal part of the Catholic church that maintains contact with the Vatican). A significant issue in the normalisation of ties between the PRC and the Vatican is Beijing's insistence that the Vatican drops its diplomatic ties with the ROC.

Although freedom of religion remains true in Hong Kong, it remains a volatile issue for many, as any threat will have lasting implications for the perceived freedoms in Hong Kong.

Architecture

Main article: Architecture of Hong Kong

Due to the creative destruction so endemic to Hong Kong over the past 50 years, few historical buildings remain in Hong Kong. Instead the city has become a centre for modern architecture, especially in and around Central. The tall business buildings of Central comprise the skyline along the coast of the Victoria Harbour, which is one of Hong Kong's famous tourist attractions. In Kowloon, which once included the anarchistic settlement called the Kowloon Walled City, strict height restrictions were in force until Kai Tak Airport closed in 1998, but these restrictions have now been lifted, and several new skyscrapers in Kowloon are being planned.

Hong Kong's best-known building is arguably Ieoh Ming Pei's Bank of China Tower, completed in 1990 (Foster's HSBC Headquarters is another contender). The building attracted heated controversy from the start, as its sharp angles were said to cast negative feng shui energy into the heart of Hong Kong. The two white aerials on top on the building were deemed inauspicious as two sticks of incense are burned for the dead. Predating the Bank of China Tower, there is the HSBC Headquarters Building, finished in 1985. This building is featured on many of Hong Kong's banknotes. It was built on the site of Hong Kong's first skyscraper, which was finished in 1935 and was the subject of a bitter heritage conservation struggle in the late 1970s.

One of the largest construction projects in Hong Kong and the world was the new Hong Kong International Airport on Chek Lap Kok near Lantau, a huge land reclamation project linked to the centre of Hong Kong by the Lantau Link, which features three new major bridges: the world's sixth largest suspension bridge, Tsing Ma, the world's longest cable-stayed bridge carrying both road and railway traffic, Kap Shui Mun, and the world's first major 4-span cable-stayed bridge, Ting Kau.

Transport

File:HongKongBuses.jpg
Single and double-decker buses Citybus, New World First Bus at Wan Chai Pier bus terminus.
Main article: Transport in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a highly developed and sophisticated transport network, encompassing both public and private transport. The Octopus card stored value smart card payment system can be used to pay for fares on almost all railways, buses and ferries in Hong Kong. Most parking meters in Hong Kong only accept payment by Octopus card, and Octopus card payment can be made at various carparks.

Hong Kong Island is dominated by steep, hilly terrain, which required the development of unusual methods of transport up and down the slopes. In Central and Western district there is an extensive system of escalators and moving sidewalks, including the longest outdoor covered elevator system in the world, the Mid-levels Escalator.

Hong Kong has several different modes of public rail transport. The two metro systems for the city are the MTR and KCR (KCR also operates a light rail system in northwest New Territories), which are operated by the MTR Corporation Limited and the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation respectively. The tramway system covers a large area and is the only tram system in the world run exclusively with double deckers.

Five separate companies operate franchised public bus services in Hong Kong. Double-decker buses were introduced to Hong Kong in 1949. They are now used almost exclusively in Hong Kong just as in Dublin, London and Singapore. However, single-decker buses remain in use for routes with lower demand or roads with lower carrying capacity and are used exclusively in South Lantau. Most normal franchised bus routes in Hong Kong operate until midnight. Public light buses run the length and breadth of Hong Kong, through areas where standard bus lines cannot reach or do not reach as frequently, quickly, or directly. Taxis are also widely used throughout Hong Kong. 99% of taxis in Hong Kong run on liquefied petroleum gas, the rest are still diesel operated.

Most ferry services are provided by licensed ferry operators, which serve outlying islands, new towns, and inner-Victoria Harbour. The two routes operated by the Star Ferry, operating for over 100 years, are franchised. Additionally, 78 "kai-to" ferries are licensed to serve remote coastal settlements.

Hong Kong has one active international airport, known as Hong Kong International Airport located at Chek Lap Kok. This replaced the famous airport of the same name at Kai Tak in 1998. After dreadful delays in the cargo systems in the first few months, the airport now serves as a transport hub for Southeast Asia, and as the hub for Cathay Pacific Airways, Dragonair, Air Hong Kong and Hong Kong Express. Additionally, both Hong Kong International Airport and Cathay Pacific Airways have been voted best in the world, in the airport and airline criteria respectively, by Skytrax from 2001 to 2005. Hong Kong International Airport serves more than 36 million passengers in the year 2004.

Access to the airport includes 'Airport Express' and 'Airbuses', These services connect the airport to the rest of Hong Kong. The Airport Express zooms passengers to Central on Hong Kong Island in just 23 minutes. Recent opening of Sunny Bay Station of the MTR allows easy access to the Disneyland Resort.

Military

File:Hkgarrison.jpg
The Hong Kong Garrison of the People's Liberation Army entering Hong Kong for the first time in 1997.
Main article: Military of Hong Kong

The PRC Central People's Government (CPG) assumed sovereignty over Hong Kong on 1 July 1997 and stationed a garrison of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to manage its defence affairs. Although the garrison has no military significance, the stationing of the PLA troops in the region is a significant symbol of the PRC government's resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong.

According the Basic Law, military forces stationed in Hong Kong shall not interfere with local affairs; Hong Kong government shall remain responsible for the maintenance of public order. The Hong Kong Garrison, composed of ground, naval, and air forces, is under the command of the Chinese Central Military Commission. The garrison subsequently opened the barracks on Stonecutters Island and Chek Chu to the public to promote understanding and trust between the troops and residents.

Under British rule, ethnic Chinese Hongkongers were allowed to join the British defence forces. However, since the handover in 1997, they were no longer allowed to join the PLA.

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References

Footnotes

  1. ^  BBC News: Donald Tsang set to be HK leader
  2. ^  Hong Kong Public Order Ordinance
  3. ^  Presentation to Legislative Council on Right of Abode Issue
  4. ^  HKSAR Immigration Department: Right of Abode in HKSAR - Verification of Eligibility for Permanent Identity Card
  5. ^  Hong Kong Government may delay universal suffrage
  6. ^  T-Salon: Hong Kong: Calls for Universal Suffrage Unabated
  7. ^  Third annual report by the European Commission on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
  8. ^  Extreme temperatures
  9. ^  Hong Kong democrats visit China - ABC News Online. Retrieved September 25, 2005.
  10. ^  Hong Kong Information: About Hong Kong
  11. ^  Century21: Learn About Hong Kong
  12. ^  Hong Kong Country Commercial Guide 2004: Economic Trends
  13. ^  Nationmaster: Hong Kong
  14. ^  Sinomedia: Hong Kong Turnaround
  15. ^  Guinness World Records: Lowest Inflation
  16. ^  Hong Kong Total Fertility Rate
  17. ^  Chief Executive pledges a clean, green, world-class city
  18. ^  The Fifth Group Training Course on Integrated Urban Policy 1998
  19. ^  Hong Kong in a Nutshell

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