|Name||香港 (xiāng gǎng) ['fragrant' 'harbor']|
|Capital||Hong Kong City|
|Population||7.264 million (0.53 %) [29th] comparison table|
|Area||1,000 km2 [386 mile2] (0.01 %) [32nd]|
|GDP||253,513 (7.36 %) [2nd]|
Hong Kong is a former British island outpost. It is a ‘Special Administrative Region’ rather than a province as it is working through fifty years of ‘two systems one country’ transitional period negotiated with the U.K.. Its quasi-independence is clear from the retention of its own currency, the Hong Kong dollar ➚ which is pegged to the US dollar, and its own flag (a five petaled orchid). The name ‘Hong Kong’ is based on the local Cantonese name for the island; the mandarin name is Xianggang meaning fragrant harbor. It is known colloquially as the Oriental Pearl. It stands strategically on the Pearl River delta ➚ where vast amounts of sea trade passes to the main Chinese southern port of Guangzhou. It has steep mountains, with ‘The Peak’ shan teng (1,811 feet [552 meters] rising dramatically from the sea. Much of the sea front and the airport sit on reclaimed land as there is so little flat land. The large town of Kowloon on the mainland, also part of Hong Kong, means 'nine dragons' (jiulong in mandarin Chinese).
Initially the British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston ➚ dismissed Hong Kong Island as of little value: ‘a barren rock with nary a house on it’, however the harbor proved an excellent base for trade with China standing the other side of the Pearl River estuary from the much older Portuguese colony of Macau. It was Scottish entrepreneurs such as Jardine Matheson ➚ who turned it into a bustling port. Cantonese People moved from surrounding Guangdong province to provide an ample supply of cheap labor. Hong Kong island became a British possession in 1842 under the treaty of Nanjing at the end of the First Opium War, and in 1860 China lost neighboring Kowloon too in the Second Opium War. Hong Kong then shot to prosperity after the Second World War when capitalists fled Communist mainland China. Britain leased the 'New Territories' on the mainland in 1898 for 99 years and this was the reason for the handover on June 30th 1997. If only the New Territories had been returned to Chinese control, the remaining 'permanent' possession of Hong Kong Island would not have been able to function independently. The use of Cantonese rather than Mandarin is still prevalent in place names, it is expected that Mandarin will gradually replace it within the 50 year transition period. English is widely spoken and used, and British traditions remain an important influence, especially in administration.
Financial and industrial enterprises have flourished and Hong Kong remains a city of world-wide importance. HSBC ➚ (Hong Kong and Shanghai bank) and Bank of China ➚ have impressive sky scrapper buildings here. By many measures it is the most densely populated city ➚ on Earth. Hong Kong has a notable local film industry which produced massively successful 'kung fu' films. Famous for cuisine and a major luxury shopping area, it remains a popular tourist destination. The boats of the Star Ferry company ➚ provide excellent views of the city from the water as they navigate between Hong Kong island and Kowloon. The Zoological and Botanical Gardens ➚ are world famous for their impressive collections of animals and plants. The Tin Hau Temple ➚ in Causeway Bay is a relatively modern temple from the Qing dynasty while Victoria Peak is a mountainous viewpoint which offers dramatic views of the skyline. Each day the noon day gun is fired as it has done since the 1864. It is immortalized in Noel Coward's 'Mad dogs and Englishman ➚' song. The tradition started because the British trading company of Jardines ➚ had had the habit of firing a gun salute whenever a senior executive arrived, while this privilege should have been reserved for the military commanders. As punishment Jardines were ordered to fire a noon day gun for ever after. Horse racing is a very popular sport, and the Happy Valley Racecourse ➚ in the center of the the city has packed stands on Wednesday nights.
Hong Kong consists of a group of mountainous islands and a chunk of mainland. The terrain heavily restricted development but there are some surprisingly peaceful and beautiful nature reserves within Hong Kong's boundaries. The climate is extremely hot, wet and humid in summer with winters not that much cooler.
|Hong Kong City||香港||6,780,000|
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