About Hong Kong
by Mark Heng
History: Hong Kong has been settled since the late Stone Age, followed by Cantonese-speaking Chinese, forming Hong Kong's "Five Clans" - the Tang, Hau, Pang, Liu, and Man. Hong Kong became an outpost of the Chinese Empire as part of Guangdong (Canton), and this period of piracy and turbulence saw the birth of the Triads, Hong Kong's version of the mafia. The deep, well-sheltered harbour (香港 means “fragrant harbour”) and fishing villages were ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, following the First Opium War with China, while treaties eventually gave the British Empire full possession of its surrounding territories. China regained sovereignty of the densely-populated territory in 1997. Hong Kong has made stark progress through an industrial era as an entrepôt to become one of the East Asian Tigers, and a leading financial centre in the world.
Culture: The territory's culture has its roots in Chinese tradition, such as feng shui, with influences from its history as a British colony, balanced with an ultra-modern streak. Hong Kong is a truly multicultural city, where a majority of Han Chinese, mostly of Cantonese ancestry, live alongside immigrants from around the world, including Indians, Pakistani, Nepalese, Filipinos, Indonesians, Thais, Americans, Japanese and Europeans. This is reflected most in the cuisines of Hong Kong.
Arts: Hong Kong is most famous for popularising the martial arts film genre. Notable names in Hong Kong cinema include Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and Jet Li, as well as film-makers such as John Woo, Wong Kar-wai, and Stephen Chow. Films such as Chungking Express have received international recognition. Beyond the cinema, Hong Kong is also the centre for Cantopop music, influenced by Chinese and Western genres, and has a multinational fanbase. Cantonese opera is a unique aspect of Hong Kong's culture, combining music, singing, martial arts, acrobatics, and acting, complemented by a rich performing arts scene.
Architecture: The juxtaposition of temples and colonial architecture against looming skyscrapers reflects the eclectic disposition of Hong Kong's culture – East-meets-West and old-meets-new. Hong Kong has 7650 skyscrapers, the largest number in the world, such as the International Commerce Centre, International Finance Centre, HSBC Building and I. M. Pei's Bank of China Tower. Notable historic buildings include the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower and the Central Police Station.
Environment: Despite Hong Kong's reputation of being intensely urbanised, the territory has tried to promote a green environment, restricting further land reclamation from Victoria Harbour. Awareness of the environment is growing as Hong Kong suffers from increasing pollution, compounded by its hilly geography and tall buildings.
Government: Under the principle of 'One Country, Two Systems', Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty on 1 July 1997 as a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. This arrangement allows Hong Kong to enjoy a high degree of autonomy, retaining its capitalist system, independent judiciary and rule of law, free trade and freedom of speech.
Media: The media in Hong Kong is relatively free from official interference compared to mainland China. The production of Hong Kong's soap dramas, comedy series, and variety shows reach audiences throughout the Chinese-speaking world. Magazine and newspaper are available in both Chinese and English, with a focus on sensationalism and celebrity gossip.
Sports: Beyond martial arts such as wing chun, Hong Kong is famous for dragon boat racing, union rugby (especially the Hong Kong Sevens), and horse racing in Happy Valley and Sha Tin.