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Hong Kong had a population of 7,191,503 in 2017. The average population is about 6,500 per km2. In reality, the population density varies greatly from one area to another. In the urban areas with its skyscrapers, the population density can reach several tens of thousands of inhabitants per km2! This is in contrast to rural areas where only a few inhabitants live per km2. The island of Lantau, for example, is twice as large as Hong Kong Island but only about 1800 people live there. Many Outlying Islands do not even have a population at all.

The population has increased enormously in the last 200 years. In 1851, only 33,000 people lived in Hong Kong. Mainly due to the many wars in Southeast Asia, that number had risen to 1,500,000 by 1938. During the Chinese Civil War and after the Communists took power in 1949-1950, the many refugees from the Chinese homeland contributed to a phenomenal growth in population. The population growth rate in 2017 was 0.32%.

About 92% of Hong Kong's population are ethnic Chinese, mostly from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. About 60% of the population was also actually born in Hong Kong. About 35% of the population live in Kowloon, 21% on Hong Kong Island, 42% in the New Territories and 2% in the Outlying Islands.

Two groups of Hong Kong's population have historically lived in this area. They are the Tankas, an originally nomadic fishing people, and the Hakkas who fled from North to South China centuries ago and eventually settled in the New Territories.

On average, there are about 400,000 foreigners living in Hong Kong, including some illegals. The top ten foreigners, both legal and illegal, are as follows: Filipinos, Americans, British, Thais, Canadians, Indians, Australians, Japanese, Malaysians and Nigerians. The average Hong Kong resident lives to be 83.

In 1997, the question was what would happen to the "foreigners" born in Hong Kong and thus holding Hong Kong passports. Some were only half or one quarter Chinese. Beijing decided that citizenship would only apply to Hong Kongers of pure Chinese descent. Many protests followed as this arrangement would render many people stateless.

Tens of thousands of people are forced to live in boats because of the housing shortage. Some families have lived on the water for three or four generations. Many people also still live in slums. The shanty-towns were created after the Second World War when many Chinese fled to Hong Kong and people needed shelter quickly. In 1950, more than 1 million people lived in the "houses" made of scrap metal, canvas, jute sacks and cardboard boxes. After a fire in 1953 that left 50,000 people homeless, the government realised that something had to be done. A building programme was started for these poorly housed people. Although reasonably successful, about 700,000 people still live in the "shanty-towns".


Bernstein, K. / Hong Kong

Groth, P. / Hongkong

Lyle, G. / Hong Kong
Chelsea House Publishers

Storey, R. / Hong Kong, Macau & Guangzhou
Lonely Planet

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info