Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, about 80 miles (130 km) southeast of Guangzhou, China. It is composed of a peninsula on the Chinese mainland and many offshore islands, most notable of which is Hong Kong Island.
The total area is 410 square miles (1,060 km2). Reclamation of land from the sea continues to expand the region's area. Most of the terrain is hilly to mountainous. In the central part of the region is Tai Mo Peak. At 3,144 feet (958 m), it is the administrative region's highest point. Victoria, on Hong Kong Island, is the capital and is often called Hong Kong. On the Kowloon Peninsula, across Victoria Harbor from Victoria, is Kowloon—a port city and a major residential and industrial center.
Hong Kong has a subtropical monsoonal climate. The average temperature is 82° F. (28° C.) in July and 60° F. (16° C.) in January. Annual rainfall averages 85 inches (2,160 mm). There are occasional typhoons in the summer.
Services dominate Hong Kong's economy. They account for almost 75 per cent of the labor force and more than 80 per cent of the region's gross domestic product. Tourism, international trade, and financial services such as banking are especially important. Hong Kong's stock market, the Hang Seng, is one of the world's major financial markets.
Farming is limited by the small amount of available land, and food must be imported or brought in from other areas of China. Lacking natural resources, Hong Kong is also dependent on sources elsewhere for most of its industrial raw materials and much of its fresh water.
Hong Kong is a leading center in southeastern Asia for banking, insurance, and other financial enterprises. China conducts much of its international commerce through Hong Kong financial institutions. Tourism is also important to the economy. Hong Kong has a strong history of free market capitalism, which the Chinese government left largely untouched after resuming control of the region.
Hong Kong has one of the world's finest harbors. At Kwai Chung, northwest of Kowloon, are some of the world's busiest terminals for containerized shipping. Hong Kong is a largely duty-free port and it is one of the world's leading transshipping ports.
Hong Kong's international airport is just north of Lantau Island. A subway, an automobile tunnel, and ferries connect Victoria and Kowloon. The Kowloon-Canton Railway links Hong Kong to other parts of China.
According to the 2001 census, Hong Kong has a population of 6,708,389. More than 99 per cent of the people are Chinese. The main religion is Buddhism. English and Chinese are the official languages; Cantonese is spoken by the majority of the Chinese. The leading institute for higher learning is the University of Hong Kong. Education is free and compulsory from ages 6 through 15.
China ceded Hong Kong Island to Britain in 1842 and Kowloon Peninsula in 1860. In 1898 the British obtained a 99-year lease on the New Territories (several nearby islands and mainland areas adjacent to Kowloon). They built harbor facilities, increased trade with China, and made Hong Kong an international exchange center for goods and money.
From 1941 to 1945 Hong Kong was occupied by the Japanese. Following World War II, a large number of refugees from China entered Hong Kong, providing a source of cheap labor. In the following decades Hong Kong became a major manufacturing and trade center. In 1984 Britain agreed to transfer sovereignty of the region back to China. The transfer took place in 1997, and the area became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China.
The Hong Kong SAR is administered by a chief executive chosen by a selection committee in China. The chief executive is subordinate to the State Council of China and serves a maximum of two five-year terms. There is a 60-seat Legislative Council, one-third of which is directly elected. The first legislative elections under Chinese control were held in May 1998.