The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (中華人民共和國香港特別行政區), is an autonomous territory on the Pearl River Delta of East Asia. Macau lies across the delta to the west, and the Chinese province of Guangdong borders the territory to the north. With a total land area of 427 square miles (1,106 square kilometers) and a population of over 7.3 million of various nationalities, it ranks as the world’s fourth most densely populated sovereign state or territory. In 1997, it became a special administrative region (SAR) with a high degree of autonomy. Under the principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong maintains a separate political and economic system from China. Except in military defense and foreign affairs, Hong Kong maintains its independent executive, legislative and judiciary powers. In addition, Hong Kong develops relations directly with foreign states and international organizations in a broad range of “appropriate fields”.
Hong Kong is one of the world’s most significant financial centers, with the highest Financial Development Index score and consistently ranks as the world’s most competitive and freest economic entity. As world’s 8th largest trading entity, its currency, the Hong Kong dollar, is the world’s 13th most traded currency. Hong Kong’s tertiary sector dominated economy is characterized by simple taxation with a competitive level of corporate tax and supported by its independent judiciary system. However, while Hong Kong has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, it suffers from severe income inequality.
Hong Kong is renowned for its deep natural harbor, which enables ready access by international cargo ships, and its impressive skyline, with a very high density of skyscrapers; the territory boasts the second largest number of high rises of any city in the world. It has a very high Human Development Index ranking and the world’s longest life expectancy. Over 90% of the population makes use of well-developed public transportation. Seasonal air pollution with origins from neighboring industrial areas of Mainland China, which adopts loose emissions standards, has resulted in a high level of atmospheric particulates.
The source of the romanized name “Hong Kong” is not known, but it is generally believed to be an early imprecise phonetic rendering of the pronunciation in spoken Cantonese or Hakka 香港, which means “fragrant harbor” or “incense Harbor.” Before 1842, the name referred to a small inlet — now Aberdeen Harbour (香港仔) — between Aberdeen Island and the southern coast of Hong Kong Island. Aberdeen was an initial point of contact between British sailors and local fishermen.
Another theory is that the name would have been taken from Hong Kong’s early inhabitants, the Tankas (水上人); it is equally probable that romanization was done with a faithful execution of their speeches, i.e. hong, not heung in Cantonese. Detailed and accurate romanization systems for Cantonese were available and in use at the time.
Fragrance may refer to the sweet taste of the harbor’s fresh water estuarine influx of the Pearl River or to the incense from factories lining the coast of northern Kowloon. The incense was stored near Aberdeen Harbour for export before Hong Kong developed Victoria Harbour.
The name had often been written as the single word Hongkong until the government adopted the current form in 1926. Nevertheless, a number of century-old institutions still retain the single-word form, such as the Hongkong Post, Hongkong Electric and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.
As of 1997, its official name is the “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China”. This is the official title as mentioned in the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Hong Kong Government’s website; however, “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region” and “Hong Kong” are widely accepted.
Hong Kong has carried many nicknames. The most famous among those is the “Pearl of the Orient”, which reflected the impressive nightscape of the city’s light decorations on the skyscrapers along both sides of the Victoria Harbour. The territory is also known as “Asia’s World City”.
On July 1, 1997, the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China took place, officially marking the end of Hong Kong’s 156 years under British colonial governance. As the largest remaining colony of the United Kingdom, the loss of Hong Kong effectively represented the end of the British Empire. This transfer of sovereignty made Hong Kong the first special administrative region of China. Tung Chee-Hwa, a pro-Beijing business tycoon, was elected Hong Kong’s first Chief Executive by a selected electorate of 800 in a televised program.
Soon after Hong Kong’s transfer to PR China, the territory has suffered coincidentally an economic double-blow: Asian Financial Crisis and the H5N1 avian flu pandemic. The then-Financial Secretary, Sir Donald Tsang, adopted a radical measure to make use of British Hong Kong foreign currency reserves and restored Hong Kong’s financial stability. In December 1997, officials had to destroy 1.4 million livestock in order to contain the H5 virus from spreading.
Despite a recovering economy from the Asian Financial Crisis, mismanagement of Tung’s housing policy triggered a housing market crisis in 1998, disrupting market supply and sent properties prices tumbling until 2002. This caused many homeowners to become bankrupt due to negative equity.
In 1998, Hong Kong moved its international airport from Kai Tak to an artificially-reclaimed island north of Lantau Island. Construction of this new airport began under the British Rose Garden Project and was completed in May 1998.
Chris Patten’s democratic reform of the Legislative Council Election in 1994 was abruptly terminated when Hong Kong transferred to PR China in 1997. In 1995, PR China set up a parallel “Provisional Council” of pro-Beijing members in Shenzhen. This Provisional Legislative Council, lacking legislative or constitutional power, moved into Hong Kong and completed its term in 1999. The Legislative Council resumed its full function after the 1999 election under pre-reformed rules; one of the prominent tasks was to complete legislation of articles in the Hong Kong Basic Law, constitutional document of the territory.
Despite the unopposed re-election of Tung in July 2002, distrust of PR China remained throughout Tung’s first term as Chief Executive. In 2003, Hong Kong was gravely affected by the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The World Health Organization reported 1,755 infected and 299 deaths in Hong Kong. Economic activities slowed down and schools were closed for weeks at the height of SARS epidemic. An estimated 380 million Hong Kong dollars (US$48.9 million) in contracts were lost as a result of the epidemic.
In May 2003, the government’s attempt to legislate Article 23 (National Security) of the Basic Law aroused strong suspicion among Hong Kong citizens. This Article would grant Hong Kong’s police force right of access to private property on grounds of ‘safeguarding national security’, but without court warrants. Coupled with years of economic hardships and discontent of Tung’s pro-Beijing stance, a mass demonstration broke out on July 1, 2003. This demonstration hastened the resignations of two government ministers and, eventually, that of Tung on March 10, 2005.
Sir Donald Tsang, then-Chief Secretary for Administration and ex-official of the British Hong Kong government, entered the 2005 election uncontested and was appointed by Beijing as the second Chief Executive of Hong Kong on June 21, 2005. In 2006, Tsang introduced food safety procedures to Hong Kong in light of loose vetting standards, contamination and counterfeit food issues of PR China.
Tsang went on to win a second term in office following the 2007 Chief Executive election under managed voting. As a result of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, Tsang’s government rolled out a package of financial stimulus of HK$11 billion and a depositor guarantee scheme to safeguard Hong Kong dollar savings in bank accounts. Hong Kong narrowed avoided a technical recession from the ongoing crisis.
In 2009, Hong Kong hosted the 5th East Asian Games and nine national teams competed in it. The Games were the first and largest international multi-sport event ever organized and hosted by the city. Major infrastructure and tourist projects also began under Sir Tsang’s second term, including the Ngong Ping Cable Car, Tian Tan Buddha and the West Kowloon Cultural District. The most controversial, however, was the high-speed railway link connecting Hong Kong and neighboring cities of PR China; as of 2016, the project has suffered numerous delays, surging labor and material costs and dispute over immigration procedures.
During Tsang’s second term, he initiated modest reforms in areas of education, environment and food safety. He concluded his term, however, when a local news media uncovered evidence of him receiving favors and hospitality from business tycoons on various occasions. This resulted in further discovery of bribery in Tsang’s government; then-Chief Secretary of Administration, Rafael Hui, was convicted of corruption in 2014.
Three candidates stood for the 2012 Chief Executive Election, including one from the Democratic Party. A selected electorate of 1,200 pro-Beijing members constituted the election committee; Leung Chun-ying won 689 votes and was appointed Chief Executive on July 1 by PR China.
During Leung’s term, the government completed legislation of Anti-trust and Competition Ordinance and introduced minimum wage in 2015. Political debates, however, have centered themselves predominately on universal suffrage and education reform. The government’s proposed National Education curriculum in 2014 attracted polarizing reactions across Hong Kong’s public and a draft bill was eventually withdrawn. Reactions from PR China, including the 2014 White Paper on Hong Kong, attracted worldwide allegations of Beijing’s intervention into Hong Kong’s high-degree autonomy. The most contentious issue was China’s outright disregard of its commitment to the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration in written text. This has fueled up a number of mass protests and the most prominent one was the Occupy Central (later termed “Umbrella”) movement in September to December 2014.
Hong Kong’s high-degree autonomy, along with neutrality of press and media, judicial independence and freedom of speech and publication, have at times been scrutinized. With continued distrust of PR China’s government, notable events such as violent attack on journalists, increasing level of press self-censorship, alleged extraterritorial abduction of anti-PR China publishers and covert intervention into Hong Kong’s educational, political and independent institutions have posed challenges to the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement. In the 2016 Legislative Council Election, there were reports of discrepancies in the electorate registry, which contains ghost registrations across constituencies, as well as political intervention to strip pro-Independence individuals of their right to stand in elections and alleged death threats to election candidates.
Social tension has heightened during Leung’s term, with many Hongkongers believing that PR China increased their efforts to exert influence on everyday life in Hong Kong. The territory currently delegates control of PR Chinese immigrants, as well as issue of visitor permits, to Chinese authorities. On the first day of Chinese New Year 2016, riots targeting the police force broke out. The most recent survey in 2016 (with a sample base of 573) in Hong Kong shows that 17.8% respondents considered themselves as “Chinese citizens”, whereas 41.9% considered themselves purely as “citizens of Hong Kong”.
Hong Kong’s transportation network is highly developed. Over 90% of daily travels (11 million) are on public transport, the highest such percentage in the world. Payment can be made using the Octopus card, a stored value system introduced by the MTR (Mass Transit Railway), which is widely accepted on railways, buses and ferries, and accepted like cash at other outlets.
The city’s main railway company (KCRC) was merged with MTR in 2007, creating a comprehensive rail network for the whole territory (also called MTR). The MTR rapid transit system has 152 stations which serve 3.4 million people a day. Hong Kong Tramways, which has served the territory since 1904, covers the northern parts of Hong Kong Island.
Hong Kong’s bus service is franchised and run by private operators. Five privately owned companies provide franchised bus service across the territory, together operating more than 700 routes as of 2014. The largest are Kowloon Motor Bus, providing 402 routes in Kowloon and New Territories, and Citybus, operating 154 routes on Hong Kong Island; both run cross-harbor services. Double-decker buses were introduced to Hong Kong in 1949, and are now almost exclusively used; single-decker buses remain in use for routes with lower demand or roads with lower load capacity. Public light buses serve most parts of Hong Kong, particularly areas where standard bus lines cannot reach or do not reach as frequently, quickly, or directly.
The Star Ferry service, founded in 1888, operates two lines across Victoria Harbour and provides scenic views of Hong Kong’s skyline for its 53,000 daily passengers. It acquired iconic status following its use as a setting on The World of Suzie Wong. Travel writer Ryan Levitt considered the main Tsim Sha Tsui to Central route one of the most picturesque in the world. Other ferry services are provided by operators serving outlying islands, new towns, Macau, and cities in mainland China. Hong Kong is famous for its junks traversing the harbor, and small kai-to ferries that serve remote coastal settlements. The Port of Hong Kong is a busy deepwater port, specializing in container shipping.
Hong Kong Island’s steep, hilly terrain was initially served by sedan chairs. The Peak Tram, the first public transport system in Hong Kong, has provided vertical rail transport between Central and Victoria Peak since 1888. In Central and Western district, there is an extensive system of escalators and moving pavements, including the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, the Mid-Levels escalator.
Hong Kong International Airport is a leading air passenger gateway and logistics hub in Asia and one of the world’s busiest airports in terms of international passenger and cargo movement, serving more than 47 million passengers and handling 4.12 million tons of cargo in 2007. It replaced the overcrowded Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon in 1998, and has been rated as the world’s best airport in a number of surveys. Over 85 airlines operate at the two-terminal airport and it is the primary hub of Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Air Hong Kong, Hong Kong Airlines, and Hong Kong Express.
Providing an adequate water supply for Hong Kong has always been difficult because the region has few natural lakes and rivers, inadequate groundwater sources (inaccessible in most cases due to the hard granite bedrock found in most areas in the territory), a high population density, and extreme seasonable variations in rainfall. Thus about 70 percent of water demand is met by importing water from the Dongjiang River in neighbouring Guangdong province. In addition, freshwater demand is curtailed by the use of seawater for toilet flushing, using a separate distribution system.
About 91% of the people of Hong Kong are of Chinese descent, the majority of whom are Taishanese, Chiu Chow, other Cantonese people, and Hakka. Hong Kong’s Han majority originate mainly from the Guangzhou and Taishan regions in Guangdong province. The remaining 6.9% of the population is composed of non-ethnic Chinese. There is a South Asian population of Indians and Pakistanis; some Vietnamese refugees have become permanent residents of Hong Kong. There are also Britons, Americans, Canadians, Japanese, and Koreans working in the city’s commercial and financial sector. In 2011, 133,377 foreign domestic helpers from Indonesia and 132,935 from the Philippines were working in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s de facto official language is Cantonese, a variety of Chinese originating from Guangdong province to the north of Hong Kong. English is also an official language, and according to the 2011 census is spoken by 46.1% of the population; 3.5 percent as a first language and 42.6 percent 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 interaction with the mainland’s economy have brought an increasing number of Mandarin speakers to Hong Kong. According to the 2011 census, Mandarin is spoken by 47.8% of the population; 1.4 percent as a first language and 46.5 percent as a second language.
Scott #1242 was released on December 31, 2006, part of a set of 12 stamps (some in booklets) portraying birds (Scott #1229-1244). The four highest values ($10, $13, $20, and $50) include microperforations around the denominations. This $13 stamp was printed by the photogravure process on granite paper and features syncopated perforations in gauges of 13½x13¼. While the eight lowest values all measure 22×26 millimeters (and were issued in a miniature sheet as well as a booklet pane), the four high values measure 25x30mm, issued in a souvenir sheet.
The $13 denomination features the northern shoveler (Anas clypeata), a common and widespread duck. It breeds in northern areas of Europe and Asia and across most of North America, wintering in southern Europe, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Central, and northern South America. It is a rare vagrant to Australia. In North America, it breeds along the southern edge of Hudson Bay and west of this body of water, and as far south as the Great Lakes west to Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon. The Northern shoveler is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
This species is unmistakable in the northern hemisphere due to its large spatulate bill. The breeding drake has an iridescent dark green head, white breast and chestnut belly and flanks. In flight, pale blue forewing feathers are revealed, separated from the green speculum by a white border. In early fall the male will have a white crescent on each side of the face. In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage, the drake resembles the female. The female is a drab mottled brown like other dabblers, with plumage much like a female mallard, but easily distinguished by the long broad bill, which is gray tinged with orange on cutting edge and lower mandible. The female’s forewing is gray. They are 19 inches (48 centimeters) long and have a wingspan of 30 inches (76 cm) with a weight of 1.3 pounds (600 grams).