Is Hong Kong a Country?

By John Misachi on August 28 2019 in World Facts

A view of the skyline of Hong Kong.
A view of the skyline of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is a metropolis located on the southern coast of China in East Asia. Hong Kong covers a total area of approximately 1,064 square miles and encompasses Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula, and over 200 other offshore islands. Boasting its own currency, passport, and even an Olympic team, it would be easy to assume that Hong Kong is a country, but the answer isn't that simple. Hong Kong is actually what is called a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. By all official accounts, Hong Kong is a part of China. However, in its day-to-day existence, Hong Kong operates like its own country in many ways. 

Hong Kong is an Administrative Region of China

Contrary to many people’s basic knowledge, Hong Kong is not a state or country but an administrative region of China. An Administrative Region is a territorial unit of a country. The jurisdiction of an administrative region normally covers the total area within it and may include parts of seas and the neighboring island. Thus, although Hong Kong has a unique history, culture, and political system, it is administratively part of China. Hong Kong and China are inextricably linked and are closely working together to boost the economy of China. Hong Kong became a special administrative region of China in 1997 following the signing of “Handover.”

Imperial Hong Kong

Hong Kong was originally under the control of Baiyue, a Chinese tribe which moves to Vietnam following the conquering of the region by Emperor Qin in 3rd Century BCE. Following the conquest, Hong Kong was incorporated into China. When the Qin dynasty collapsed, the Hong Kong area was consolidated into the Nanyue Kingdom. As time progressed, Hong Kong would play several roles such as a center of salt production, a base for the army protecting China’s coast, and a temporary court for the Song Dynasty.

Under the British Rule

Three crucial events led to the British Empire taking control of the Hong Kong region. First, the British emerged victorious in the First Opium War and took control of the area in 1841. Secondly, the British managed to integrate the Kowloon Peninsula, a region north of Hong Kong Island in 1860 following the Second Opium War. Thirdly and most importantly, the Chinese leased the New Territory to the empire for a period of 99 years in 1898, marking the beginning of the British rule. The British Empire contributed to much of what Hong Kong is today. Hong Kong became an important free port, encouraging international trade.

The Handover

As the 99-year lease was about to expire, the British decided against extending their stay in Hong Kong and decided to return the land to China. A Joint Declaration was signed between the two nations in 1984, with the British promising to transfer control to China in 1997. The deal which is famously referred to as “Handover” signaled the end of British rule. Hong Kong was officially reunited on June 30, 1997.

Despite being a Special Administrative Region of China, Hong Kong has some autonomy. The territory has its currency, Hong Kong dollar, pegged on the US dollar. It also maintains a separate government from the mainland China. The executive-led parliamentary government is inherited from the British with the Chief Executive as the head of government.

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