U.S. Department of State
Background Notes:  Hong Kong, November 1995
Bureau of Public Affairs

November 1995
Official Name:  Hong Kong
 
PROFILE
 
Geography
 
Area:  1,076 sq. km. (416 sq. mi.); Hong Kong comprises Hong Kong 
Island, Kowloon, the New Territories and numerous small islands. 
Terrain:  Hilly to mountainous with steep slopes and natural harbor. 
Climate:  Tropical monsoon; cool and humid in winter, hot and rainy from 
spring through summer, warm and sunny in fall.
 
People
 
Population (1994):  6 million. 
Annual growth rate:  2.4%. 
Ethnic groups:  Chinese 98%, other 2%. 
Religions:  Eclectic mixture of local religions 90%, Christian 10%. 
Languages:  Cantonese and English are official. 
Literacy (1992):  77% (90% male, 65% female). 
Health (1994):  Infant Mortality Rate--4.8/1,000.  Life Expectancy--75 
years male, 81 years female. 
Work Force (1994--2.9 million; 63% male, 37% female):  Merchandising, 
restaurants, and hotels--35%; manufacturing--15%; finance, insurance, 
real estate, and business services--12%; community, social, and personal 
services--10%; transport, storage, and communications--6%; civil 
service--6%; construction--2%.
 
Government
 
Type:  U.K. dependent territory (China regains sovereignty in 1997). 
Branches:  Executive--governor (appointed by U.K. monarch), chief 
secretary, and Executive Council.  Legislative--Legislative Council.  
Judicial--Court of Appeal, Supreme Court, High Court, district and 
magistrate courts. 
Subdivisions:  Hong Kong, Kowloon, New Territories. 
Suffrage:  Universal at 18 years of age and seven years residence in 
Hong Kong.
 
Economy (1994)
 
GDP:  $109 billion.
GDP real growth rate:  5.5%. 
Per capita income:  $21,000. 
Natural resources:  None. 
Agriculture:  Products--vegetables, flowers, dairy products, less than 
20% self-sufficient. 
Industry:  Types--transportation and financial services, clothing, 
textiles, toys, watches, clocks, electronics, plastics. 
Trade:  Imports--$160 billion, including foodstuffs, transport 
equipment, raw materials, semi-manufactures, petroleum.  Major 
suppliers--China 38%, Japan 16%, Taiwan 9%, U.S. 7%.  Domestic exports--
$28.5 billion, including clothing and textiles, electronics, watches and 
clocks, toys.  Major markets--U.S. 28%, China 28%, Germany 6%, Singapore 
6%, U.K. 5%, Japan 5%.  Re-exports--$122 billion.  Major markets--China 
34%, U.S. 22%, Japan 6%, Germany 4%, U.K. 3%.
 
U.S.-HONG KONG RELATIONS
 
Hong Kong is a major center for U.S. investment, trade, and contact with 
the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) and the rest of Asia.  The 
United States is the second largest destination for Hong Kong's finished 
goods and re-exports, as well as the second largest source of foreign 
investment.  Nearly 900 U.S. corporations, with total investment of 
about $8.5 billion, are located in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is an important and growing market for American products and 
services.  U.S. agricultural exports to Hong Kong totaled $860 million 
in 1992 and $874 million in 1993.  The Hong Kong airport project also 
presents significant opportunities for U.S. consulting contractors; U.S. 
companies have already won key contracts for management and planning.

The United States has few trade problems with Hong Kong.  In 1993, the 
U.S. had a trade surplus of $315 million with Hong Kong.
 
Principal U.S. Officials
 
Consul General--Richard W. Mueller 
Deputy Principal Officer--Stephen A. Schlaikjer 
 
The U.S. consulate is located at 26 Garden Road, Hong Kong; tel. 011-
852-2523-9011; fax 011-852-2845-1598 (general), 011-852-2845-4845 
(consular), 011-852-2845-9800 (commercial).

GOVERNMENT
 
The Governor of Hong Kong, appointed by the U.K. monarch, is the 
commander-in-chief.  The chief secretary is the principal adviser to the 
governor and is the chief executive of the government.  The governor 
also is advised by the executive council, which consists of the chief 
secretary, the financial secretary, the attorney general, and 11 members 
appointed by the governor.

The Legislative Council enacts legislation and approves the budget.  Its 
bills become law only after approval by both the governor and the 
monarch.  An ongoing localization process aims to replace U.K. laws in 
Hong Kong with local equivalents before 1997.

The current legislature was elected in September 1995 following the 
first elections in which all 60 seats were open to direct or indirect 
balloting.  The 60 seats are distributed as follows:  20 members from 
geographical constituencies elected through direct elections; 30 members 
chosen by electors in functional constituencies; and 10 members picked 
by an election committee.  Legislative Council members elected in 1995 
are expected to serve through reversion until the next election in 1999 
(see Political Conditions).

Hong Kong Island and Kowloon are administered by the Urban Council (30 
members; half elected and half appointed by the governor); the council 
has regulatory and licensing responsibilities similar to those of a city 
council in such areas as health, culture, commerce, and recreation.  The 
New Territories are administered by the secretary for district 
administration.  The secretary also supervises district boards and 
district management committees which serve as local consultative bodies 
to the government on district matters.

English common law applies to Hong Kong, with certain local variations 
derived from Chinese custom.  The judiciary is independent from the 
executive and legislative branches, although judges are appointed by the 
governor.  The magistrate courts try 90% of the cases, maintaining a 
purely criminal jurisdiction, and are generally limited to issuing 
sentences of up to two years of imprisonment or fines.  Civil cases and 
more serious criminal cases are tried in either the district court or 
the high court.  The Court of Appeals is the highest court in Hong Kong.  
The P.R.C.  and the U.K. agreed to establish a Court of Final Appeal in 
1997.  There is currently  a limited right of appeal to the Queen's 
Privy Council in London.

Hong Kong has a comprehensive system of legal advice and aid that was 
further expanded in July 1992.  Public support led to the passing of a 
bill of rights, in June 1991 guaranteeing basic civil and political 
rights.
 
Principal Government Officials
 
Governor--Christopher Patten 
Chief Secretary--Anson Chan 
Financial Secretary--Donald Tsang 
Attorney General--J.F. Matthews
 
POLITICAL CONDITIONS
 
After two years of negotiations between the P.R.C. and U.K. over the 
future of Hong Kong, a joint declaration was signed in December 1984 
which stipulates the terms of Hong Kong's return to Chinese control on 
July 1, 1997.  The agreement also states that Hong Kong will be a 
special administrative region of China after 1997, retaining its 
political, economic, and judicial systems and participating in 
international agreements and organizations for 50 years after the 
reversion.  China will assume U.K. responsibilities for Hong Kong's 
foreign affairs and defense.  A joint liaison group was established to 
oversee implementation of the agreement during the transition.

The "mini-constitution" establishing Hong Kong's political and legal 
structure after 1997 was promulgated by the Chinese National People's 
Congress in April 1990, after five years of deliberation.  Candidates 
for the legislature who advocated a faster pace of democratization than 
that stated in the Basic Law won 29 of the 60 total legislative seats in 
the last election.  The Chinese have said that the Basic Law could not 
be amended before 1997 to allow for more directly elected seats at the 
time of reversion.  Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten in 1992 proposed 
modest electoral reforms to broaden political franchise in the 
territory.

These proposals were opposed by the P.R.C.  Following eight months of 
Sino-British negotiations which ended without agreement in November 
1993, the Hong Kong Government proceeded to adopt and implement the 
governor's proposals.  China thereafter declared its intention to 
disband the extant legislature in 1997 and establish instead a 
provisional legislature until a new election law is adopted. 
 
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
 
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are 
issued when the Department of State recommends that Americans avoid 
travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all 
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency 
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security 
information, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. 
embassies and consulates in the subject country. They can be obtained by 
telephone at (202) 647-5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access the 
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225, via a 
modem with standard settings. Bureau of Consular Affairs' publications 
on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad are available 
from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
Washington, DC, tel. 20402 (202) 783-3238. 
 
Emergency information concerning  Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225.
 
While planning a trip, travelers can check the latest information on 
health requirements and conditions with the U.S. Centers for Disease 
Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-4559 
provides telephonic or fax information on the most recent health 
advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on 
food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet 
entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication 
number CDC-94-8280, price $7.00) is available from the Superintendent of 
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. 
(202) 512-1800. 
 
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication). 

Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to 
register with the U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" 
listing in this publication). Such information might assist family 
members in making contact en route in case of an emergency. 
 
Further Electronic Information: 
 
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the CABB 
provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and helpful 
information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of charge to 
anyone with a personal computer, modem, telecommunications software, and 
telephone line. 
 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official weekly magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press 
briefings; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. 
DOSFAN is accessible three ways on the Internet: 
 
Gopher:  dosfan.lib.uic.edu 
URL:  gopher://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ 
WWW:  http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/dosfan.html 
 
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly basis 
by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of 
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Priced at 
$80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include four discs (MSDOS and 
Macintosh compatible) and are available from the Superintendent of 
Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 37194, Pittsburgh, 
PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250. 
 
Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy 
information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S. Government 
Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. For general BBS 
information, call (202) 512-1530. 
 
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, 
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet 
(gopher. stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 
482-1986 for more information.
 
============================== 
Background Notes Series --  Published by the United States Department of 
State -- Bureau of Public Affairs -- Office of Public Communication -- 
Washington, DC 
 
This material is in the public domain and may be reproduced without 
permission; citation of this source is appreciated. 
(###)
Return to East Asia and the Pacific Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage