At A Glance: Hong Kong

At A Glance: Hong Kong
A 'Special Administration Region' of the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong enjoys a high level of autonomy under its "one country, two systems" formula. (Source: Lane Luckie/KLTV)

Occupied by the UK in 1841, Hong Kong was formally ceded by China the following year; various adjacent lands were added later in the 19th century. Pursuant to an agreement signed by China and the UK on December 19, 1984, Hong Kong became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997. In this agreement, China promised that, under its “one country, two systems” formula, China’s socialist economic system would not be imposed on Hong Kong and that Hong Kong would enjoy a “high degree of autonomy” in all matters except foreign and defense affairs for the subsequent 50 years.

AREA: 1,108 sq km (six times the size of Washington, DC)

POPULATION: 7,249,907 (July 2020 est.)

GOVERNMENT TYPE: presidential limited democracy; a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China

CHIEF OF STATE: President of China Xi Jinping (since March 14, 2013)

HEAD OF GOVERNMENT: Chief Executive Carrie Lam (since July 1, 2017)

NATIONAL SYMBOLS: orchid tree flower; national colors: red, white. Flag is red with a stylized, white, five-petal Bauhinia flower in the center; each petal contains a small, red, five-pointed star in its middle; the red color is the same as that on the Chinese flag and represents the motherland; the fragrant Bauhinia - developed in Hong Kong the late 19th century - has come to symbolize the region; the five stars echo those on the flag of China. As a Special Administrative Region of China, “Yiyongjun Jinxingqu” is the official anthem.

LEGISLATIVE BRANCH: unicameral Legislative Council or LegCo (70 seats; 35 members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by party-list proportional representation vote; 30 members indirectly elected by the approximately 220,000 members of various functional constituencies based on a variety of methods; 5 at large “super-seat” members directly elected by all of Hong Kong’s eligible voters who do not participate in a functional constituency; members serve 4-year terms).

JUDICIAL BRANCH: highest courts: Court of Final Appeal (consists of the chief justice, 3 permanent judges, and 20 non-permanent judges); note - a sitting bench consists of the chief justice, 3 permanent judges, and 1 non-permanent judge. All judges appointed by the Hong Kong Chief Executive upon the recommendation of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission, an independent body consisting of the Secretary for Justice, other judges, and judicial and legal professionals; permanent judges serve until normal retirement at age 65, but term can be extended; non-permanent judges appointed for renewable 3-year terms without age limit.

LANGUAGES: Cantonese (official) 88.9%, English (official) 4.3%, Mandarin (official) 1.9%, other Chinese dialects 3.1%, other 1.9% (2016 est.)

RELIGIONS: Buddhist or Taoist 27.9%, Protestant 6.7%, Roman Catholic 5.3%, Muslim 4.2%, Hindu 1.4%, Sikh 0.2%, other or none 54.3% (2016 est.). Note: many people practice Confucianism, regardless of their religion or not having a religious affiliation.

GDP: $480.5 billion (2018)

ECONOMY OVERVIEW: Hong Kong has a free market economy, highly dependent on international trade and finance - the value of goods and services trade, including the sizable share of reexports, is about four times GDP. Hong Kong has no tariffs on imported goods, and it levies excise duties on only four commodities, whether imported or produced locally: hard alcohol, tobacco, oil, and methyl alcohol. There are no quotas or dumping laws. Hong Kong continues to link its currency closely to the US dollar, maintaining an arrangement established in 1983.

Hong Kong’s open economy has left it exposed to the global economic situation. Its continued reliance on foreign trade and investment makes it vulnerable to renewed global financial market volatility or a slowdown in the global economy.

Mainland China has long been Hong Kong’s largest trading partner, accounting for about half of Hong Kong’s total trade by value. Hong Kong’s natural resources are limited, and food and raw materials must be imported. As a result of China’s easing of travel restrictions, the number of mainland tourists to the territory surged from 4.5 million in 2001 to 47.3 million in 2014, outnumbering visitors from all other countries combined. After peaking in 2014, overall tourist arrivals dropped 2.5% in 2015 and 4.5% in 2016. The tourism sector rebounded in 2017, with visitor arrivals rising 3.2% to 58.47 million. Travelers from Mainland China totaled 44.45 million, accounting for 76% of the total.

Hong Kong’s economic integration with the mainland continues to be most evident in the banking and finance sector. During the past decade, as Hong Kong’s manufacturing industry moved to the mainland, its service industry has grown rapidly.

In 2017, Chief Executive Carrie LAM announced plans to increase government spending on research and development, education, and technological innovation with the aim of spurring continued economic growth through greater sector diversification.

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: 3.1% (2017 est.)

EXPORTS: electrical machinery and appliances, textiles, apparel, watches and clocks, toys, “jewelry, goldsmiths’ and silversmiths’ wares, and other articles of precious or semi-precious materials”; Hong Kong plays an important role as entrepot to the Chinese mainland; in 2017, 58% of Hong Kong’s re-exports originated in mainland China, and 54% were destined for the Chinese mainland. Top export partners include: China 55%, US 8.6% (2018).

IMPORTS: raw materials and semi-manufactures, consumer goods, capital goods, foodstuffs, fuel (most is reexported). Top import partners include: China 46.3%, Singapore 6.4%, South Korea 5.9%, Japan 5.5%, US 4.9% (2018).

MILITARY BRANCHES: no regular indigenous military forces; defense is the responsibility of China. no regular indigenous military forces; Hong Kong Police Force; Hong Kong garrison of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) includes elements of the PLA Army, PLA Navy, and PLA Air Force; these forces are under the direct leadership of the Central Military Commission in Beijing and under administrative control of the adjacent Southern Theater Command (2019)

MILITARY EXPENDITURES: 1.24% of GDP (2018)

Source: 2020 CIA World Factbook

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