U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Hong Kong, November 1995
Bureau of Public Affairs
Official Name: Hong Kong
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.
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
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
Subdivisions: Hong Kong, Kowloon, New Territories.
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years of age and seven years residence in
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
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).
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
Principal Government Officials
Chief Secretary--Anson Chan
Financial Secretary--Donald Tsang
Attorney General--J.F. Matthews
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
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-
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.
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
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:
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.
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