Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, People’s Republic of China
Government, economy and language
Hong Kong is a bustling, modern and cosmopolitan city. On July 1, 1997 Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China after 150 years of British colonial rule.
As an SAR, Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy. Dating from the ‘one country, two systems’ agreement of 1997 and the Basic Law, Hong Kong retains its status as a free port and authority to negotiate separate international trade agreements. The island also administers its own budget, currency and tax system and enacts its own laws.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Donald Tsang presides over an Executive Council comprising both business and political figures and an elected legislative council. Government and fiscal policies are the responsibilities of the Chief Secretary and Financial Secretary respectively, and legislation is the responsibility of the Secretary for Justice.
Hong Kong is known as one of Asia’s ‘Little Tiger’ economies, ranking alongside Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. Much of its success has been attributed to the government’s willingness to maintain a relatively free market economic policy, the business acumen of the entrepreneurs as well as the hardworking attitudes of the Hong Kong people.
While Hong Kong had once been very famous worldwide for its manufacture of toys, textiles, clothing, electrical goods, clocks, watches and cameras, much of the manufacturing is now being done on the mainland. The financial service sector has now taken over from the manufacturing and becomes Hong Kong’s main enterprise.
There is an absence of foreign exchange controls in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong dollar (HK $) as the local currency – is freely convertible. It is pegged to the US dollar at a rate of HK$7.8 to US$1. Most foreign currencies and traveler’s cheques are easily exchanged at banks, hotels or moneychangers.
The official languages in Hong Kong are Chinese and English. The latter is more commonly used in the business community while Cantonese is the most widely spoken dialect. In recent years, the use of Mandarin (Putonghua) has become increasingly common with the growing ties between Hong Kong and Mainland China.
Geography, Climate and Travel
Geographically, Hong Kong is the heart of Asia. Situated on the southeastern coast of China and spreading out over 1,100 square kilometres, it serves as a gateway for thousands of business people who want to gain access to the mainland market. More than 70 per cent of Hong Kong’s total area is rural, including about 40 per cent designated as protected country parks.
Hong Kong’s climate is sub-tropical, tending towards the temperate for nearly half the year. Temperatures can drop below 10 degrees Celsius in winter and exceed 33 degrees Celsius in summer. About 90 per cent of the rainfall occurs between April and September.
Hong Kong operates a very liberal policy on travelers. But it is still advisable to check on visa requirements before coming to Hong Kong. As a relatively safe city, the Hong Kong government bans the possession and use of all forms of illegal drugs. Travelers to Hong Kong should take good care in abiding by such laws.
As a highly cosmopolitan city, Hong Kong embraces and respects different religions – East and West. The older generations of the indigenous population are mostly Buddhists and Taoists. On the other hand, Christianity and Catholicism are very popular among the younger people and Westerners in Hong Kong. It is also interesting to note that there are some 80,000 followers of Islam in Hong Kong.