Capital city: Victoria
Population: 7.2 million (Census and Statistics Department)
Government: Special Administrative Region of China
Currency: Hong Kong dollar (HKD, HK$)
Main languages: Chinese (Cantonese), English
Main religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity
Hong Kong is a city-state that consists of the Kowloon Peninsula and New Territories, which border the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, and several islands including Hong Kong Island and Lantau Island. A former British colony and protectorate, it was handed back to China in 1997 and is now governed as a partially-autonomous ‘Special Administrative Region’. Although the capitalist reputation of Hong Kong might seem incompatible with the principles of China’s communist leadership, the handover agreement guaranteed this ‘one country, two systems’ state until 2047.
Renowned as centre of commerce, Hong Kong is lively and cosmopolitan in character, with a healthy fusion of eastern and western culture. The majority of the population are ethnic Chinese, but the British influence is still very prominent, while a transient population of international business people help to redefine the cultural identity of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s modern architecture and neon skyline are perhaps its most distinctive features, but beneath the skyscrapers lies an equally vibrant entertainment scene. Pubs, bars and clubs cater for both Chinese and western tastes in nightlife, and there are over a hundred cinemas showing the latest Hong Kong and international movie releases. Despite its urban reputation, Hong Kong has large areas of public parkland where regular sports and outdoor activities take place, and its museums and arts venues are also well known. For more information, visit the Hong Kong Tourism Board website.
Food and drink
With the largely Chinese population, much of the everyday food in Hong Kong is Cantonese in origin. Fishing is plentiful in the region and locally-sourced seafood features heavily on menus. Hong Kong’s fashionable dining scene boasts over 12,000 eateries with a large number of Michelin-starred restaurants, including branches of brands from top western chefs alongside the best of Asian cuisine. Perhaps surprisingly given its Chinese and British influences, Hong Kong has a unique tea culture all of its own, with Hong Kong-style milk tea a famous speciality.
Hong Kong has two official languages: Standard Chinese (as spoken in mainland China) and English (due to the colonial heritage). However, the dialect of Chinese commonly spoken on the mainland is based on Mandarin, whereas the majority of Chinese speakers in Hong Kong actually use the Cantonese dialect. As such, Cantonese is considered the de facto language of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has a generally temperate subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. The temperature range is usually between 15°C (59°F) and 35°C (95°F), although winter temperatures do drop lower at higher altitudes. Hong Kong is affected by both cool northeast monsoons and warm maritime airstreams, and can experience cyclones and tropical storms in summer months. Most of the rainfall occurs between May and September, which are regarded as the region’s rainy season.
Safety and security
Hong Kong is considered a safe place to live and work, with low levels of violent crime and fairly low levels of petty crime. The police in Hong Kong are highly visible and patrols will regularly check identity cards. This might sound threatening, but they also have a reputation for being polite and efficient, which helps the community feel extremely safe. However, visitors should still be aware of thieves and pickpockets, as well as scams involving fake goods or currency exchanges. For more information on crime prevention, visit the Hong Kong Police Force website.
Occasional extreme weather conditions may pose a risk to public safety. Typhoons and cyclones are monitored by the Hong Kong Observatory and public safety guidance is issued regularly, so make sure you are familiar with the emergency processes and follow the advice you are given.