Hong Kong Island and the southernmost tip of the Kowloon Peninsula were ceded by China to Britain by the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 and the Peking Convention in 1861 after two Anglo-Chinese wars.
The New Territories were leased by China to Britain in 1898 for a period of 99 years until 1997. From this time Hong Kong was definitively under British administration, except for the period of Japanese occupation between December 1941 and August 1945. In September 1982, talks began between China and Britain on the future of Hong Kong after the expiry of the lease in 1997. On 19 December 1984, the two countries signed an agreement under which Britain would transfer sovereignty of Hong Kong to China on 1 July 1997 (The Joint Declaration). It was also agreed that the economic and social systems that were common in Hong Kong would be maintained for at least 50 years. This "one country, two systems" principle was enshrined in the Basic Law, which was adopted by the National People's Congress of China in 1990 and was to serve as Hong Kong's new constitution. Hong Kong is currently governed by Hong Kong people. For example, the Chief Executive must be of Hong Kong origin and have lived in Hong Kong for at least 20 years. The same applies to top officials who must have lived in Hong Kong for at least 15 years. All other officials, including those of other origins, were allowed to remain in place after 1997. A 150-member Preparatory Committee was set up in 1996 and elected a 400-member Selection Committee in 1997. It elected Tung Chee-hwa as the first Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR on 11 December. On 21 December, the Committee elected a 60-member Provisional Legislative Council that will remain in place until 30 June 1998.
The Executive Council is headed by the Chief Executive and consists of three ex-officio members and ten appointed members. Their main function is to advise the Chief Executive. The laws of Hong Kong are made by the Chief Executive on the advice and approval of the Legislative Council. It was first appointed in 1995 and consisted of 60 members. The President is elected from and by the members of the Council. The first Legislative Council elections were held in 1998.
Local government is formed by the Urban Council, which is responsible for municipal services in the urban areas. This includes sports, recreation and cultural institutions such as museums. The council consists of 32 members from the various districts.
The Regional Council is responsible for matters such as public health, sanitation and recreational facilities in the New Territories. It has 39 members, including 27 from the various districts.
Hong Kong also has 18 District Councils, nine in urban and nine in rural areas. In these 18 District Councils there are 518 members. They advise the Executive Council on matters relating to the welfare of the population.
The current political situation is described in the history section.
The first nine years of education are compulsory and paid for by the government. These are six years of primary education and three years of secondary education. Ninety per cent of children go on to further education after secondary school. A quarter of these go on to study at university level. Education after secondary school is no longer free. This applies to both private and government schools.
Education in Hong Kong suffers greatly from the lack of school buildings. Therefore, classes are held in two groups. The first group starts at eight in the morning until one in the afternoon. The second group starts at one o'clock in the afternoon and goes on until half past six.
Hong Kong has four universities, the oldest being Hong Kong University (1911).
Bernstein, K. / Hong Kong
Groth, P. / Hongkong
Lyle, G. / Hong Kong
Chelsea House Publishers
Storey, R. / Hong Kong, Macau & Guangzhou
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