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Archaeological evidence suggests that what is now known as Hong Kong was first settled in the palaeolithic era, between 35 and 39 thousand years ago. During the neolithic era it was inhabited predominantly by the Che people, then by the Baiyue peoples who spread across the whole region.
In the early 16th Century, European adventurers arrived. The Portuguese established settlements and started trading in the region, but tensions between the Portuguese and the Chinese meant that by the mid 16th Century, an isolationist policy was enforced. All marine trade between China and the outside world ceased.
Tensions began with the British in the 19th Century, resulting in the First Opium War between China and Britain. After China lost this war, the Treaty of Nanking granted Hong Kong to the United Kingdom in all perpetuity. Over the next fifty years, further areas were added to Hong Kong territory, and Hong Kong, now a free port, attracted a lot of trade. There was much migration of western people to the area during this time and Hong Kong was a racially divided area. It was initially impossible for native people to buy houses in the richer European and American reserved areas.
During the Second World War, Hong Kong was occupied by invading Japanese forces, and conditions were terrible. When Britain resumed control after the War was won, the population quickly recovered as skilled Chinese workers flooded into the country to escape the Chinese Civil War. The establishment of a Communist regime in China led to tensions between British Hong Kong and mainland China. There were a series of difficult years, including water shortages in the 1960s, but from the 1970s to the 1990s, a series of reforms dramatically improved the lives of people in Hong Kong, and established the country as a strong economic power and global financial center.
In July 1997, British rule ended in Hong Kong, and sovereignty was handed to the People's Republic of China. There has been much contention over the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China, and political unrest continues to this day.
The territory of Hong Kong is 426 sq m, made up of Hong Kong island, the Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories and hundreds of small islands. This territory is located on China's south coast, 37 miles East of Macau, by the Pearl River Delta. It is surrounded on three sides by the South China Sea, and bordered on the fourth by the Shenzhen River, beyond which lies the city of Shenzhen.
Hong Kong has a humid, subtropical climate. It is located just south of the Tropic of Cancer. While its urban regions are very densely populated, less than a quarter of the land is developed, the rest is hills and steep mountains and much of this area is designated as nature reserves.
Hong Kong is officially known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. Under the constitutional principle known as 'one country, two systems', Hong Kong will operate broadly under its own political, legal, economic and financial auspices for fifty years after British Rule ended. China retains control of foreign affairs and defense of the Special Administrative Regions. In 2014, Beijing released a new report asserting its authority over the territory, which has raised a question mark over how autonomous Hong Kong will remain, though both the Chinese and Hong Kong governments consider that the 'one country, two systems' policy has been implemented successfully. What will happen to governance in Hong Kong after 2047 remains unclear.
Hong Kong's densely populated, vibrant city life has long attracted tourists to this part of the world, for the fine dining, nightlife and cultural attractions to be found amid the skyscrapers and majestic high rises.
Tourists enjoy the many museums on offer, or ride the tram to Hong Kong Islands stunning viewpoint platforms on 'The Peak'. Also popular are walking through Temple Street Night Market, the Ladies Market, or along the Promenade of Tsim Sha Tsui. For those who would rather escape the crowds, there are also the wonders of Hong Kong's beautiful nature reserves to be enjoyed.
If you are from the United Kingdom, United States, Australia or New Zealand you do not require a visa to enter Hong Kong for a short period for a vacation. If you are from the United Kingdom, you may enter Hong Kong for up to 180 days and this falls to 90 days for the other countries mentioned above. Tourists from 148 countries in total may enter visa free for varying numbers of days and those from other countries must apply for a visa.
Please note that at present the 'Umbrella revolution' are still holding demonstrations due to the government's lack of progress in holding democratic elections. Though these demonstrations are peaceful and have thus far posed no danger to tourists, there has been some disruption to bus and taxi services, and the police use pepper spray. Tourists are advised to use the metro when journeying round Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Government has a policy of 'mother tongue instruction'. Classes are taught in Cantonese, and English, and increasingly Mandarin, are being encouraged as second and third languages. Children are offered three years of non-compulsory kindergarten, followed by six years of compulsory primary education, and six years of compulsory secondary education. Since the new education system was implemented in public schools in 2009, students complete their Diploma of Secondary Education. There are eight public universities and one private university in Hong Kong.
- Hong Kong means 'Fragrant Harbour', possibly due to incense factories that used to be here.
- Electronic cigarettes with nicotine are now illegal in the country.
- There are more Rolls Royce per person in Hong Kong than anywhere else in the world.
- Hong Kong is home to the longest covered escalator in the world.
Last Updated : November 28, 2014
CountryPeople's Republic of China
Latitude and Longitude22.3000° N, 114.1667° E
Population7,182,724 (July 2013 est.)
Area1,104 sq km (426 sq miles)
Government TypeLimited Democracy
Chief of StatePresident of China Xi Jinping
Head of GovernmentChief Executive LEUNG Chun-ying (since 1 July 2012)
GDP Purchasing Power Parity)$375.5 billion (2012 est.)
GDP - Per Capita (PPP)$52,300 (2012 est.)
GDP - Real Growth Rate1.8% (2012 est.)
LanguagesCantonese, English, Putonghua, Chinese
Time ZoneHKT (UTC+8)
International AirportHong Kong International Airport
EthnicityCantonese, Filipino, Indonesian
ReligionEclectic mixture of local religions, Christian
Points of InterestHong Kong Disneyland, Victoria Peak, Lantau Island, Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Po Lin Monastery, Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum
Agriculture ProductsFresh Vegetables, Poultry, Pork, Fish
Major IndustriesTextiles, Clothing, Tourism, Banking, Shipping, Electronics
National DayAnniversary of the Founding of the People's Republic of China, 1 October (1949),
National SymbolOrchid Tree Flower
National Holyday1 October, 1949 - National Day (Foundation of the People's Republic of China)