Hong Kong
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Country Profile

Archaeological studies support a human presence in the Chek Lap Kok area of Hong Kong (where the new airport has been built) from 35,000 to 39,000 years ago and in the Sai Kung Peninsula (in the New Territories) from 6,000 years ago.

In 214 BC, the first emperor of China conquered the Baiyue tribes in Jiaozhi and incorporated the territory into imperial China for the first time. The area was consolidated under the kingdom of Nanyue, founded by general Zhao Tuo in 204 BC after the Qin Dynasty collapsed. When the kingdom was conquered by Emperor Wu of Han in 111 BC, the land was re-assigned in the Han Dynasty. Archaeological evidence indicates the population increased and early salt production flourished in this time period.

During the Tang Dynasty period, the Guangdong region flourished as a regional trading center. In 736, Emperor Xuanzong of Tang established a military town in Tuen Mun to defend the coastal area in the region.

The earliest recorded European visitor was Jorge Álvares, a Portuguese explorer who arrived in 1513. After establishing settlements in the region, Portuguese merchants began trading in southern China. At the same time, they invaded and built up military fortifications in the Tuen Mun district of Hong Kong. Military clashes between China and Portugal led to the expulsion of the Portuguese.

In the mid-16th century, the Haijin order banned maritime activities and prevented contact with foreigners; it also restricted local sea activity. In 1661–69, the territory was affected by the Great Clearance ordered by Kangxi Emperor, which required the evacuation of the coastal areas of Guangdong. It is recorded that about 16,000 persons from Xin'an County were driven inland, and 1,648 of those who left are said to have returned when the evacuation was rescinded in 1669.

What is now the territory of Hong Kong became largely wasteland during the ban. In 1685, Kangxi became the first emperor to open limited trading with foreigners, which started with the Canton territory. He also imposed strict terms for trades such as requiring foreign traders to live in restricted areas, staying only for the trading seasons, banning firearms, and trading with silver only. The East India Company made the first sea venture to China in 1699, and the region's trade with British merchants developed rapidly soon after. In 1711, the company established its first trading post in Canton. By 1773, the British reached a landmark 1,000 chests of opium in Canton with China consuming 2,000 chests annually by 1799.

Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after the First Opium War (1839–42), when military forces invaded the country after the ruling Qing Dynasty's refusal to allow opium to be imported into Hong Kong. Slowly but surely the British way of life was introduced to the country, which very quickly became one of the main industrial nations of the Far East.

Originally confined to Hong Kong Island, the colony's boundaries were extended in stages to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 and then the New Territories in 1898. It was occupied by Japan during the Pacific War, after which the British resumed control until 1997, when China resumed sovereignty.

The region espoused minimum government intervention under the ethos of positive non-interventionism during the colonial era. The time period greatly influenced the current culture of Hong Kong, often described as "East meets West" and the educational system, which used to loosely follow the system in England until reforms implemented in 2009.

However, after years of negotiation and conflict, 1997 saw the signing of an agreement between the UK government and Chinese authorities to transfer sovereignty back to China. Under a complicated "one country, two tier” system, Hong Kong will retain its own laws, police force and monetary system.


  • Full name: Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region of China)
  • Land Area: 1,104 sq km (land: 1,054 sq km water: 50 sq km) composed of more than 200 islands
  • Coastline: 733 km
  • Climate: subtropical monsoon; cool and humid in winter, hot and rainy from spring through summer, warm and sunny in fall
  • Landforms: Hilly to mountainous with steep slopes; lowlands in north. Lowest point: South China Sea 0m; highest point: Tai Mo Shan 958m
  • Land use: arable land: 5.05%; permanent crops: 1.01%; other: 93.94% (2001)
  • Population (July 2011 est.): 7,122,508 country comparison to the world: 99
    0.448% (2011 est.) country comparison to the world: 152
    Birth rate: 7.49 births/1,000 population (2011 est.) country comparison to the world: 219 Infant mortality rate: total: 2.9 deaths/1,000 live births
  • Ethnic groups: Chinese 95%, Filipino 1.6%, Indonesian 1.3%, other 2.1% (2006 census)
  • Languages: Cantonese (official) 90.8%, English (official) 2.8%, Putonghua (Mandarin) 0.9%, other Chinese dialects 4.4%, other 1.1% (2006 census)
  • Literacy: total population: 93.5%
  • Economy :GDP $325.8 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 37
  • GDP - real growth rate: 6.8% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 40
  • GDP - per capita (PPP): $45,900 (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 13 GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 0%; industry: 7.4%; services: 92.5% (2010 est.)
  • Labor force: 3.685 million (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 94
  • Labor force - by occupation: manufacturing: 4.7%; construction: 2.2%; wholesale and retail trade, restaurants, and hotels: 41.7%; financing, insurance, and real estate: 12%; transport and communications: 6.3%; community and social services: 17%; note: above data exclude public sector (2010 est.)
  • Unemployment rate: 4.4% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 40
  • Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.4% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 79
  • Agriculture - products: fresh vegetables; poultry, pork; fish
  • Industries: textiles, clothing, tourism, banking, shipping, electronics, plastics, toys, watches, clocks
  • Exports: $388.6 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 13
  • Exports - commodities: electrical machinery and appliances, textiles, apparel, footwear, watches and clocks, toys, plastics, precious stones, printed material
  • Exports - partners: China 52.7%, US 11%, Japan 4.2% (2010 est.)
  • Imports: $437 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 9
  • Imports - commodities: raw materials and semi-manufactures, consumer goods, capital goods, foodstuffs, fuel (most is reexported)
  • Imports - partners: China 45.1%, Japan 9.6%, Taiwan 7.6%, Singapore 4.8%, US 4.7% (2010 est.)
  • Communications: Telephones - main lines in use: 4.188 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 37; Telephones - mobile cellular: 12.207 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 56 Telephone system: general assessment: modern facilities provide excellent domestic and international services domestic: microwave radio relay links and extensive fiber-optic network international: country code - 852; multiple international submarine cables provide connections to Asia, US, Australia, the Middle East, and Western Europe; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Pacific Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean); coaxial cable to Guangzhou, China
  • Broadcast media: 2 commercial terrestrial television networks each with multiple stations; multi-channel satellite and cable TV systems are available; 3 radio networks, one of which is government-funded, operate about 15 radio stations (2010)
  • Internet users: 4.873 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 47
  • Transportation :Airports 2 (2010) country comparison to the world: 201
  • Airports - with paved runways: total: 2 over 3,047 m: 11,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2010) Heliports: 9 (2010)
  • Roadways: total: 2,067 km country comparison to the world: 172 paved: 2,067 km (2010)