History of Hong Kong
Human settlement in the area now known as Hong Kong dates back to the late Paleolithic and early Neolithic era, but the name Hong Kong (香港) did not appear on written record until the Treaty of Nanking of 1842. The area's earliest recorded European visitor was Jorge Álvares, a Portuguese explorer who arrived in 1513.
In 1839 the refusal by Qing Dynasty authorities to import opium resulted in the First Opium War between China and Britain. Hong Kong Island became occupied by British forces in 1841, and was formally ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Nanjing at the end of the war. The British established a Crown Colony with the founding of Victoria City the following year. In 1860, after China's defeat in the Second Opium War, Kowloon Peninsula south of Boundary Street and Stonecutter's Island were ceded to Britain under the Convention of Peking. In 1898 Britain obtained a 99-year lease of Lantau Island and the adjacent northern lands, which became known as the New Territories.
During the first half of the 20th century, Hong Kong was a free port, serving as an entrepôt of the British Empire. The British introduced an education system based on their own model, while the local Chinese population had little contact with the European community of wealthy tai-pans settled near Victoria Peak.
In conjunction with its military campaign in World War II, the Empire of Japan invaded Hong Kong on 8 December 1941. The Battle of Hong Kong ended with British and Canadian defenders surrendering control of the colony to Japan on 25 December. During the Japanese occupation, civilians suffered widespread food shortages, rationing, and hyper-inflation due to forced exchange of currency for military notes. Hong Kong lost more than half of its population in the period between the invasion and Japan's surrender in 1945, when the United Kingdom resumed control of the colony.
Hong Kong's population recovered quickly as a wave of mainland migrants arrived for refuge from the ongoing Chinese Civil War. With the proclamation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, more migrants fled to Hong Kong in fear of persecution by the Communist Party. Many corporations in Shanghai and Guangzhou also shifted their operations to Hong Kong. The colony became the sole place of contact between mainland China and the Western world, as the Chinese communist government increasingly isolated itself from outside influence.
As textile and manufacturing industries grew with the help of population growth and low cost of labour, Hong Kong rapidly industrialised, with its economy becoming driven by exports, and living standards rising steadily. The construction of Shek Kip Mei Estate in 1953 marked the beginning of the public housing estate program, designed to cope with the huge influx of immigrants. Trade in Hong Kong accelerated even further when Shenzhen, immediately north of Hong Kong, became a Special Economic Zone of the PRC, and established Hong Kong as the main source of foreign investment to the mainland. The later decades of the 20th century saw the economy shift from textiles and manufacturing to mainly services-based, as the financial and banking sectors became increasingly dominant.
With the lease of the New Territories due to expire within two decades the governments of the United Kingdom and the People's Republic of China discussed the issue of Hong Kong's sovereignty in the 1980s. In 1984 the two countries signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, agreeing to transfer sovereignty to the People's Republic of China in 1997, and stipulating that Hong Kong would be governed as a special administrative region, retaining its laws and a high degree of autonomy for at least fifty years after the transfer. The Hong Kong Basic Law, which would serve as the constitutional document after the transfer, was ratified in 1990, and the transfer of sovereignty occurred at midnight on 1 July 1997, marked by a handover ceremony at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Hong Kong's economy was affected by the Asian financial crisis of 1997 that hit many East Asian markets, and the lethal H5N1 avian influenza also surfaced that year. After a gradual recovery, Hong Kong suffered again due to an outbreak of SARS in 2003. Today, Hong Kong continues to serve as an important global financial centre, but faces uncertainty over its future role with a growing mainland China economy, and its relationship with the PRC government in areas such as democratic reform and universal suffrage.
Culture of Hong Kong
The population density per district varies from 783 (Islands) to 52,123 (Kwun Tong) per sq. km. Before the combination of Mong Kok and Yau Tsim districts in 1995, Mong Kok District had the highest density (~120,000 /km²). The following figures come from the 2006 Population By-census. Note that the median monthly per capita income is deduced from the median monthly domestic household income, the average domestic household size and the labour force.
Residents of Hong Kong are sometimes referred to as Hongkongers. The territory's population reached 6.99 million in 2006. Hong Kong has a fertility rate of 0.95 children per woman, one of the lowest in the world and far below the 2.1 children per woman required to sustain the current population. However, the population in Hong Kong continues to grow due to the influx of immigrants from mainland China, approximating 45,000 per year. Life expectancy in Hong Kong is 81.6 years as of 2006, the sixth highest in the world.
About 95% of the people of Hong Kong are Chinese by ethnicity, the majority of which is Cantonese or from linguistic groups such as Hakka and Chiu Chow. The remaining 5% of the population is composed of non-ethnic Chinese forming a highly visible group despite their smaller numbers. A South Asian population of Punjabis, Sindhis, Indians, Pakistanis and Nepalese are found. Some Vietnamese refugees have become permanent residents of Hong Kong. There are also a number of Europeans (mostly British), Americans, Australians, Canadians, Japanese, and Koreans working in Hong Kong's commercial and financial sector. Most British left after handover to China in 1997.
Hong Kong's de-facto official language is Cantonese, a Chinese language originating from Guangdong Province to the north of Hong Kong (of which Hong Kong was part before British colonial rule), and is spoken by 95% of the population as a first language. English is also an official language, and according to a 1996 by-census is spoken by 3.1% of the population as an everyday language and by 34.9% of the population as a second language. Signs displaying both Chinese and English are common throughout the territory. Since the 1997 handover, an increase in immigrants from mainland China and greater integration with the mainland economy have brought an increasing number of Mandarin speakers to Hong Kong.
Religion in Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of freedom, guaranteed by the Basic Law. 90% of Hong Kong's population practises a mix of local religions, most prominently Buddhism (mainly Chinese Mahayana) and Taoism. A Christian community of around 600,000 exists, forming about 8% of the total population, and is nearly equally divided between Catholics and Protestants, although other, smaller Christian communities exist including the Nontrinitarian Latter-Day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses. There are also Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Bahá'í communities.
Most Hong Kong ethnic Chinese people naturally lean toward eastern culture, because demographically they are the majority. Many, though, have adopted western ways with substantial numbers still adhering to Chinese traditions. On various social aspects, the bottom-line Chinese values of "family solidarity", "courtesy" and "saving face" carry significant weight in the culture. Heavy influence is derived from Cantonese culture from the neighbouring province of Guangdong. There are also substantial communities of Hakka, Fukien, Teochiu and Shanghainese people. On the contrary, people have long been referred to by their origin in China. Overall the background of Hong Kong Chinese born after 1965 can be classified as westernised, since they have been influenced by liberal western cultural symbols
Cantonese is the most widely spoken language in Hong Kong. Since the 1997 handover, the government has adopted the "biliterate and trilingual" (兩文三語) policy. Under the principle, Chinese and English must both be acknowledged as official languages, with Cantonese being acknowledged as the de facto official spoken dialect of Chinese in Hong Kong, while also accepting the use of Standard Mandarin.
Superstition and beliefs
Despite the relatively modernised way of life, Chinese superstition still plays an integral part of the culture. Concepts like Feng shui are taken quite seriously. Expensive construction projects often include the hiring of consultants, that are believed to make or break a business. Other objects like bagua mirror are still used regularly to shield evils. Numbers in Chinese culture also play a role in people's everyday life. Numbers like "4" (because of its similarity to the Chinese word for "(to) die") are avoided when possible by believers. Other rituals like not using scissors on Chinese New Year are still around.
There are some distinctive holidays celebrated by Hong Kong as part of the eastern culture, not participated in the west except in select overseas Chinese communities. The most well known is Chinese New Year, which occurs after every regular New Year. Other events include Dragon Boat Festival where zongzi is made by the millions at home as part of the tradition. Dragon boats also compete for regional awards. Mid-Autumn Festival is another highly celebrated event with massive purchase of mooncake around Chinese bakery shops.
Music: Cantopop has dominated and become synonymous with local music culture since its birth in Hong Kong. While many other forms of music exist, Cantopop still enjoys mass popularity. Yet, the global influence of Mandarin has been changing the style. Mandopop from Taiwan and China is fast gaining ground. Most artists are essentially multilingual, singing in Cantonese and Mandarin.
TV Dramas: Besides from the staple of TVB dramas, citizens also watch a lot of dramas from Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The most notable is Korea's Dae Jang Geum. Its 2005 broadcast on TVB was extremely popular. On the night of the series' finale the streets were unusually quiet due to people staying at home to watch the finale.
Celebrity: Hong Kong can be described as "gossip mad". The personal lives of singers, actors and celebrities in general are popular conversation topics and tabloid material. Hong Kong's thirst for gossip is not only limited to local celebrities, but celebrities from Taiwan, Japan and to a lesser degree Korea and Mainland China, are also welcomed. Many gossip magazines are also in circulation and one of the most notable/notorious sections is the "HD Reality" section. Introduced after the implementation of HD broadcasting, the section shows HD photos of celebrities and rather truthfully analysis of their attractiveness/unattractiveness. Naturally the section is very popular.
Food holds an important place in Hong Kong culture. Restaurants are available in a level of convenience and variety unmatched by anywhere in the world. The fusion of east and west makes Hong Kong unique, especially in the close proximity where one can find any style any time. From dim sum, da been lo, fast food, to the most rare of delicacies, Hong Kong carries the reputable label of "Gourmet Paradise" and "World's Fair of Food".
In Later-19th century, the Victorian fashion vogue by British influence.
Hong Kong is well identified by its materialistic culture and high levels of consumerism. Shops from the lowest end to the most up scale pack the streets in close proximity. The mild weather, low tax and convenience makes Hong Kong a première international shopping centre. Some popular shopping destination include Mongkok, Tsim Sha Tsui, and Causeway Bay.
The industry has been one of the most successful worldwide, especially during the second half of the 20th century. It remains prominent despite a severe slump starting in the mid-1990s. Martial artists and stars such as Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee are known globally, especially in Chinese settlements overseas. Many have transitioned over to Hollywood, including Chow Yun Fat and John Woo. Hong Kong cinema has received international recognition for directors as Wong Kar Wai.
Mass media and publishing
Hong Kong has two broadcast television stations, ATV and TVB. The latter, launched in 1967, was the territory's first free-to-air commercial station, and is currently the predominant TV station in the territory. Paid cable and satellite television have also been widespread. The production of Hong Kong's soap drama, comedy series and variety shows have reached mass audiences throughout the Chinese-speaking world. Many international and pan-Asian broadcasters are based in Hong Kong, including News Corporation's STAR TV. Hong Kong's terrestrial commercial TV networks, TVB and ATV, can also be seen in neighbouring Guangdong Province and Macau (via cable).
Magazine and newspaper publishers distribute and print in numerous languages like Chinese and English. The printed media, especially tabloids but also broadsheet newspapers, lean heavily on sensationalism and celebrity gossips. While the practice is criticised, it continues to sell papers. The media is relatively free from government interference compared to that of mainland China, and newspapers are often politicised; some show skepticism toward the Chinese government in Beijing.
Manhua are Hong Kong based comic books that have provided an avenue of expression long before the arrival of television. While readership has fluctuated throughout different decades, the art is one of the most consistent in terms of providing highly affordable entertainment. Manhuas are regularly available at news stands in most street corners. Characteristics of Old Master Q, Chinese Hero and many others have undoubtedly showcased Chinese artwork and stories. Japanese manga have also been translated and fused into local manhua libraries.
While Hong Kong has had an endless supply from Japanese anime and US Disney animations, China has been trying hard to revitalise the industry. Hong Kong has made contributions in recent years with productions like A Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation and DragonBlade. Most notably, companies like Imagi Animation Studios located directly in the territory are now pushing 3D-CG animations into the market.
Cantonese opera is one of the major categories in Chinese opera, originating in southern China's Cantonese culture. The art carries a national identity that goes as far back as the first wave of immigrants to arrive from Shanghai in the 1950s. Sunbeam Theatre is one of the places that hold the tradition. Like all versions of Chinese opera, it is a Chinese art form involving music, singing, martial arts, acrobatics, and acting.
Hong Kong has different kinds of performing arts, for example, drama, dance, music and theatre. Hong Kong is also home to the first full time comedy club in Asia, The TakeOut Comedy Club Hong Kong.
With limited land resource available, Hong Kong continues to offer recreational and competitive sports. Locally sports in Hong Kong is described as "Club Life". Internationally, Hong Kong have participated in Olympic Games, and numerous other Asian Games events. Major multi-purpose venues like Hong Kong Coliseum are found. Others include regular citizen facilities like MacPherson Stadium.
Martial arts in Hong Kong is accepted as a form of entertainment or exercise. Tai chi is one of the most popular, especially among the elderly. Groups of people practise the motions in every park at dawn. Many forms of martial arts were also passed down from different generations of Chinese ancestry. Styles like praying mantis, snake fist and Crane are some of the more recognised. The atmosphere is also distinct as people practice outdoor in peaks next to ultra modern high rise buildings.
When not at work, Hongkongers devote much time to leisure. Mahjong is a popular social activity, and family and friends may play for hours at festivals and on public holidays in homes and mahjong parlours. The image of elderly men playing Chinese chess in public parks, surrounded by watching crowds, is common. Other board games such as Chinese checkers are also enjoyed by people of all ages. Among teenagers, shopping, eating out, karaoke and video games are common, with Japan being a major source of digital entertainment for cultural and proximity reasons; there are also popular local inventions such as Little Fighter Online.
In the past, Hong Kong had some of the most up-to-date arcades games available outside of Japan. Negative associations were drawn between triads and video game arcades. Nowadays, soaring popularity of home video game consoles have somewhat diminished arcade culture.
Outdoor activities such as hiking, barbecues and water sports are also popular due to the local geography.
Chess is run by the Hong Kong Chess Federation.
Gambling is popular in Chinese culture and Hong Kong is no different. Gambling is legal only at three established and licensed institutions approved and supervised by the government of Hong Kong: horse racing (in Happy Valley and Sha Tin), the Mark Six lottery, and recently, football (soccer) betting.
Games like mahjong and many types of card games can be played for fun or with money at stake, with many mahjong parlours available. Movies such as the 1980s God of Gamblers have given a rather glamorous image to gambling in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Jockey Club
The Hong Kong Jockey Club provides a major avenue for horse racing and gambling to locals, mostly the middle-aged. The club was established in 1844 by the British, with the first racecourse being built in Happy Valley. The club closed for a few years during World War II due to the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong. In 1975, lottery Mark Six was introduced. And in 2002, the club offered wagerings for soccer world championship games including the English FA Premier League and the World Cup.
Industry of Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of the world's leading financial centres. Its highly developed capitalist economy has been ranked the freest in the world by the Index of Economic Freedom for 15 consecutive years. It is an important centre for international finance and trade, with one of the greatest concentration of corporate headquarters in the Asia-Pacific region, and is known as one of the Four Asian Tigers for its high growth rates and rapid industrialisation between the 1960s and 1990s. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is the sixth largest in the world, with a market capitalisation of US$2.97 trillion as of October 2007, and the second highest value of initial public offerings, after London. The currency used in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong dollar, which has been pegged to the U.S. dollar since 1983.
The Government of Hong Kong plays a passive role in the financial industry, mostly leaving the direction of the economy to market forces and the private sector. Under the official policy of positive non-interventionism, Hong Kong is often cited as an example of laissez-faire capitalism. Following World War II, Hong Kong industrialised rapidly as a manufacturing centre driven by exports, and then underwent a rapid transition to a service-based economy in the 1980s. Hong Kong matured to become a financial centre in the 1990s, but was greatly affected by the Asian financial crisis in 1998, and again in 2003 by the SARS outbreak. A revival of external and domestic demand has led to a strong recovery, as cost decreases strengthened the competitiveness of Hong Kong exports and a long deflationary period ended.
The territory has little arable land and few natural resources, so it must import most of its food and raw materials. Hong Kong is the world's eleventh largest trading entity, with the total value of imports and exports exceeding its gross domestic product. Much of Hong Kong's exports consist of re-exports, which are products made outside of the territory, especially in mainland China, and distributed via Hong Kong. Even before the 1997 handover, Hong Kong had established extensive trade and investment ties with mainland China, and its autonomous status now enables it to serve as a point of entry for investment flowing into the mainland. At the end of 2007, there were 3.46 million people employed full-time, with the unemployment rate averaging 4.1%, the fourth straight year of decline. Hong Kong's economy is dominated by the service sector, which accounts for over 90% of its GDP, while industry now constitutes just 9%. Inflation was at 2% in 2007, and Hong Kong's largest export markets are mainland China, the United States, and Japan.
As of 2009, Hong Kong is the fifth most expensive city for expatriates. Hong Kong is behind Tokyo, Osaka, Moscow, and Geneva but beats Zürich. Last year, Hong Kong was ranked sixth, and in 2007, Hong Kong was ranked fifth.