Hong Kong is a fantastic destination that’s visited by people from all over the world. Its international flavour provides a home from home for visitors from all nations. Attractions like Hong Kong Disneyland and the city’s bustling market scene also cement Hong Kong’s status as a vibrant destination that welcomes visitors back time and time again.
Being so close to China, Hong Kong is a natural next step for many visiting the mainland. But as you’ll see when you visit, mainland China and Hong Kong are worlds apart. A fact that gets many people thinking – is Hong Kong a part of China? Here we unveil the truth…
A British history
Despite being a very cutting edge and cosmopolitan destination, the history of Hong Kong is very long, dating back to the late Stone Age. There have been power struggles in the country ever since.
In recent history, it was the British Crown who claimed Hong Kong Island as its own. British Hong Kong was established in 1841. Back then Hong Kong was little more than a selection of villages and hamlets, but its harbour was of great strategic importance to the British Empire.
It wasn’t until 1984 that the Chinese-British joint declaration was signed. This declaration paved the way for Hong Kong to be handed back to China in 1997.
Originally it was just the New Territories that were to be conceded under the declaration, but one Chinese politician changed things like Lonely Planet details:
“It was Deng Xiaoping who decided that the time was ripe to recover Hong Kong, forcing the British to the negotiating table. The inevitable conclusion laid to rest political jitters and commercial concerns that had seen the Hong Kong dollar collapse – and subsequently be pegged to the US dollar – in 1983, but there was considerable resentment that the fate of 5.5 million people had been decided without their input and that Whitehall had chosen not to provide Hong Kong people with full British passports and the right of abode in the UK.”
The transition wasn’t welcomed by many Hong Kong nationals. As a result, many citizens migrated to other parts of the world due to the handover.
One country, two systems
Despite the 1997 handover back to China, the status of Hong Kong isn’t as simple as it should be. Hong Kong is classed as a Special Administrative Region, a region that is independent in some ways and controlled by the People’s Republic of China in others.
Currency, passports, immigration and the legal system are just some of the areas where limited autonomy has been granted to Hong Kong. Its legal system is governed by Basic Law, an infrastructure based on British common law that was agreed between China and Britain during the 1997 exchange.
As a result, mainland authorities have no right to arrest people in Hong Kong. Immigration and passport control is also independent of China, with UK nationals able to stay for up to six months without any visa at all.
Unrest in Hong Kong
This limited autonomy is currently under fire with a new extradition bill proposed by mainland China causing mass protests and widespread unrest. Under the proposed law, Hong Kong citizens could be extradited to China, a move that people feel compromises its semi-autonomous status.