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Wednesday 20th January
Hong Kong Information - Page 2
Britain gained Hong Kong when China was defeated in the Opium Wars. The Treaty of Nanking in 1842 gave Britain Hong Kong Island "in perpetuity" and in 1860 the Southern peninsula of Kowloon and Stonecutters Island were added to the UK territory. In July 1898 Britain was leased the New Territories for 99 years.

During this century many Chinese moved to Hong Kong for political reasons. Labour and capital from China helped to fuel Hong Kong's economic growth.

In 1984 Britain agreed to hand back the whole colony to China. The Sino-British Joint Declaration promised that Hong Kong's social, economic and legal system would be protected for fifty years. The Chinese used the phrase: "one country two systems". The Basic Law details how Hong Kong will be governed.

On lst July 1997 Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.

Although Hong Kong is small it is an important and prosperous international trading centre. Its success, founded originally on its natural harbour, was encouraged during the second half of the twentieth century by the government's laissez-faire attitude to private business. Helped by low taxes, free trade policies, a hardworking labour force, efficient administration, excellent transport and communications systems, Hong Kong became one of the world's leading trading centres.

Since the 1980s Hong Kong has had a close economic relationship with mainland China. Much of Hong Kong's heavy manufacturing moved to mainland China because of lower production costs. China's own economic growth helped to fuel the growth of the Hong Kong service industries such as banking and insurance.

The Airport Core Programme during the 1990s attracted investment to Hong Kong as well as providing improved transport facilities to cope with increasing trade.

Hong Kong's original inhabitants relied on farming and fishing for their livelihoods. In modern Hong Kong most of the agricultural activities take place in the New Territories. However because of the shortage of land, much of the food consumed in Hong Kong is imported. The fishing industry provides fish for export.

With the relocation of heavy manufacturing to mainland China, Hong Kong's remaining industrial activities are confined to light manufacturing. Products include clothing, textiles, plastic products (especially toys), electronics, watches and clocks.

The service sector is the most important part of Hong Kong's economy. Hong Kong is one of the world's leading financial centres. In October 2008 governments throughout the world acted quickly to recapitalize their banking systems hit by the global financial crisis. Hong Kong moved to protect its deposits.

Tourism is also a significant service industry. (2008)

Hong Kong is well provided for in the arts.

There are many concert venues such as the City Hall, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, the Hong Kong Arts Centre and the Academy of Performing Arts. The Academy exists to provide training of dancers, musicians, actors and stage technicians.

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra are the two best known musical enterprises in the Territory. There are three professional full time dance companies: Hong Kong Ballet Company, the Hong Kong Dance Company and the City Contemporary Dance Company.

Hong Kong has four major international arts events. The annual Fringe Festival takes place at the beginning of the year, as does the month-long Hong Kong Arts Festival. In the autumn there is a biennial Festival of Asian Arts. The annual Hong Kong International Film Festival takes place in April. This last event is particularly important to Hong Kong because of the strength of the local film industry which produces over six hundred films a year.

Hong Kong's position as the gateway to China gives a unique opportunity to record and study Chinese history and culture. The city's museums and art galleries contain a number of important collections. The modern world is also represented with the Science Museum and the Space Museum.

Although Hong Kong is a modern, international commercial centre, many of Hong Kong's people retain much of their traditional culture. A well-known custom is the Lion Dance which takes place at the Chinese New Year as well as during other Chinese celebrations.

With the very high population density, the main problem for sports in Hong Kong is the lack of space. Nevertheless rugby, soccer, basketball and similar sports are an important part of life in Hong Kong.

Horse racing is Hong Kong's most popular spectator sport. There are two race courses: one at Happy Valley on Hong Kong Island and the Sha Tin racecourse in the New Territories.

As an island Hong Kong is an excellent location for water-sports such as sailing, windsurfing and water skiing. Dragon-boat racing, a traditional sport, is celebrated in the Tuen Ng festival in June.

Martial arts are popular in Hong Kong and played an important part in the success of the local film industry, making international stars of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. Every morning the parks of Hong Kong are used by people practising the traditional art of Tai Chi.

On Hong Kong island, despite the pressures on space, there are four country parks. There are over twenty national parks in the whole of Hong Kong, mostly in the New Territories and Outlying Islands. Walking and touring in these parks is a popular recreation; the Cheung Yeung Festival (October) when people take a day's outing to high places, sees many visitors in the parks.

Festivals and special events are important to the traditional culture of the people of Hong Kong. Some of the main festivals are as follows:

LATE JANUARY/FEBRUARY: CHINESE NEW YEAR - This family festival involves the same ideas of change and renewal as its equivalents around the world. "Kung hay fat choi" means Happy New Year.

FEBRUARY: YUEN SIU (THE LANTERN FESTIVAL) - This festival marks the last official day of the New Year Festival and also has some of the characteristics of the West's Valentine's Day.

APRIL: CHING MING FESTIVAL - At this festival the families go together to visit the graves of their ancestors.

APRIL AND MAY: TIN HAU AND TAM KUNG - Tin Hau and Tam Kung are fishermen's festivals.

JUNE: TUEN NG (THE DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL) - At this festival races take place in the harbour and on most of the islands.

AUGUST: THE MAIDENS' FESTIVAL/SEVEN SISTERS' FESTIVAL - This is a special event for young girls and lovers.

LATE AUGUST: FESTIVAL OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS - At this festival, regarded as an unlucky day, families take paper offerings such as homes, cars, money, food, clothes, etc. and burn them as gifts for the ghosts.

AUTUMN: MOON CAKE - This festival is similar to a Harvest Festival and remembers a revolt against the Mongols when secret messages were passed on hidden in cakes.

OCTOBER: CHEUNG YEUNG FESTIVAL - This festival is based on the story of an old man who was warned to take his family to the mountains for 24 hours. On their return, they found that everyone in their village was dead. On this day people make visits to high places.

News from Hong Kong is available in Newslink.

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