Hong Kong territory profile

  • 27 September 2015
  • From the section Asia

The former British colony became a special administrative region of China in 1997, when Britain's 99-year lease of the New Territories, north of Hong Kong island, expired.

Hong Kong is governed under the principle of "one country, two systems", under which China has agreed to give the region a high degree of autonomy and to preserve its economic and social systems for 50 years from the date of the handover.

But Beijing can veto changes to the political system, and pro-democracy forces have been frustrated by what they see as the slow pace of political reform.


Hong Kong

Semi-autonomous, special administrative region of China

  • Population 7.2 million

  • Area 1,098 sq km (424 sq miles)

  • Major languages Chinese (mainly Cantonese), English (both official)

  • Major religions Buddhism, Taoism

  • Life expectancy 80 (men), 86 (women)

  • Currency Hong Kong dollar

Getty Images


Chief executive: Leung Chun-ying

Image copyright Getty Images

Pro-Beijing politician Leung Chun-ying's tenure has been marked by recurring political battles with Hong Kong's pro-democracy opposition.

Better known by the initials CY, Leung has consistently attracted protests by thousands of people since he was elected in 2012 by a 1,200-strong committee packed with members of pro-Beijing elites, rather than by universal suffrage.

A plan to introduce pro-China "patriotic lessons" in schools led protests and then an embarrassing climb-down on the eve of legislative elections in September 2012, at which pro-democracy parties retained enough seats to veto constitutional change.

The stand-off with pro-democracy forces reached new heights in 2014, when Mr Leung indicated his support for China's view that only candidates chosen by a nominating committee should stand in direct universal elections for the post of chief executive, due to start in 2017. Demonstrators occupied major parts of the city and caused political upheaval.


Image copyright Getty Images

Hong Kong is home to many of Asia's biggest media players. The territory has one of the world's largest film industries and is a major centre for broadcasting and publishing.

It has kept its editorially-dynamic media, in contrast to the rest of China where official control over broadcasting is pervasive.

Hong Kong internet users enjoy some of the world's highest download speeds. More than 83% of households had broadband access by late 2013.


Some key dates in Hong Kong's history:

1842 - China cedes Hong Kong island to Britain after the First Opium War.

1898 - China leases the New Territories together with 235 islands to Britain for 99 years.

1941-45 - Japan occupies Hong Kong during Second World War.

1970s - Hong Kong is established as an "Asian Tiger" - one of the region's economic powerhouses - with a thriving economy based on high-technology industries.

1997 - Hong Kong is handed back to the Chinese authorities after more than 150 years of British control.

2014 - Pro-democracy demonstrators occupy the city centre for weeks in protest at the Chinese government's decision to limit voters' choices in the 2017 Hong Kong leadership election. More than 100,000 people took to the streets at the height of the Occupy Central protests.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hong Kong has grown rapidly since this waterfront scene was captured in this photograph from the 1950s

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