The city is highly notable for its film industry, especially in the martial arts area; giving us Bruce Lee, Chow Yun-fat, Donnie Yen, and Jackie Chan, among many others. For example, the film The Departed is directly inspired by the Infernal Affairs trilogy. Heroic Bloodshed films (especially those made by John Woo) also heavily influenced worldwide action cinema.
In non-Hong Kongese fiction, the place features in the James Bond films The Man with the Golden Gun, Tomorrow Never Diesnote and Die Another Day, The Bourne Supremacy (novel) and quite a few other works. The films Chungking Express and Already Tomorrow In Hong Kong have been said to feature the city as practically a supporting character.
Also, Hong Kong was the first non-Japanese country to have received the Doraemon franchise, just three years (1973) after the original debut in Japan.
A notable area of the city was the Kowloon Walled City, which could be described as an anarchic city. The Walled City was technically under Chinese control (in 1898, the UK took over everything south of the Sham Chun River—forming the New Territories—with the exception of the City), but being in the middle of British land made it rather difficult for the Chinese to govern, so they simply did not bother and left the City to its own devices. Even in the colonial days, it became notorious as a den of lawlessness, with brothels, opium dens, and back alley doctors. Violent crime, on the other hand, was surprisingly low as the Triads effectively took over the City to be their base of operations and they did not take kindly to hooliganism on their front porch. And despite the really bad standard of living, people generally carried on with their lives in their own tight-knit communities. Eventually the PRC and Britain decided they'd had enough, evicted everyone on really short notice, and demolished the whole place in 1993. The site is now a nice public park, but if you want to see the Walled City in all its hideousness, catch the movie Bloodsport starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. At one point, the Walled City was the most densely populated area on Earth.
The city is also quite well-known as the shopping destination for Southeast Asian tourists, sharing the spot with Singapore. This is due to the variety of goods available, from the most high-end electronic goods to the cheapest Chinese knockoff t-shirt. The big stores selling brand-name goods usually hold sales during holiday seasons to capitalize on this, slashing prices down up to 50%. Another thing it is famous for is its cuisine, from fine dining to street food. Particularly iconic Hong Kong food includes dim sum, egg tart with "silk stocking" milk teanote , Put chai ko (red bean pudding cake), curry fish balls and cart noodles.
Also notable is its immigrant population. There are many Filipina and Indonesian maids working in the city, and they all gather at Victoria park on Sundays. There are cases of abuse by Chinese employers, but they are generally taken care of quickly since the government has laws that provide for their general well-being while they are employed in the country, and there is a civil body set up by former immigrants who managed to become successful there. The Indian and Pakistani population is also quite significant, and it is possible to find an entire department store filled entirely by Indian workers selling goods that cater to the Indian community. In 2018, the Hong KongZhuhaiMacau Bridge was completed, connecting the three major cities, with further plans to develop the general area as the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area.
Other useful points:
The Special Administrative Region or SAR (as it is now called) is broadly divided as follows:
- Hong Kong Island (Hong Kong Side): Home of towering postmodern glass skyscrapers around which black-eared kites soar as if auditioning for an Eagle Star commercial. Also present are double-decker trams, the Happy Valley racecourse and a number of parks. One such park is Ocean Park, which is by the smallish town of Aberdeen, home of the Jumbo Floating Restaurant. Ocean Park includes a theme park, aviary, aquarium (with sharks!), seal and dolphin shows and pandas (which, in typical panda fashion, don't actually do much). The crowded streets, trams, eye-catching skyscrapers and the old prison/courthouse building and legislative Council building are popular backdrops for action movies and beat-em-up computer games: one of the Street Fighter series features the characters holding up a tram as they fight, some episodes of Tekken have the China Bank tower clearly visible in the background.
- For lively scenes, there are such districts as Lan Kwai Fong, a couple of streets of wall-to-wall bars and the place to see in the (calendar) New Year; or Wan Chai, the World of Suzie Wong, where there are "girlie bars" full of Filipina and Thai "escorts". (Suzie herself was a Chinese hooker back in the '50s when Wanchai was still the waterfront. Reclamation has since pushed the seafront back). The oldest girlie bar in Wan Chai is probably the Bottoms Up Club, whose sign proudly notes that it was featured in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun. There are ordinary bars and restaurants in Wanchai too.
- The Kowloon Peninsula (Kowloon Side), a short trip across the Victoria Harbour (actually a strait separating Hong Kong Side from the mainland). The crossing can be made by the Star Ferry, the Mass Transit Railway, or one of three road tunnels. The harbour itself is one of the busiest areas of water in the world, but is narrowing as more and more land is reclaimed. (The wreck of the Queen Elizabeth was never really a secret service base and has long since been removed, in case any Bond fans were wondering.) Kowloon is home to many street markets, often open long after dark, hence their nickname "night markets". The most famous one is the one at Temple Street. There are also hotels, residential neighbourhoods and declining industrial areas, as well as a seriously huge container port. Also the terminus of the Kowloon-Canton Railway, and home to the former Kai-tak Airport, where planes flew above densely-populated residential area on daily basis.
- Technically the container port belongs to the New Territories, but it is separated from the rest by hills, while only a plain (city now) away from the Kowloon Peninsular.
- The New Territories: These are the areas north of Kowloon which the British leased from China for 99 years. The lease ran out in 1997, at which point it would not have been practical to hang on to Hong Kong and Kowloon, so the Chinese got the whole lot back. This is a marked contrast to The Men of Downing Street's attitude to British Sovereignty elsewhere, hence the famous rhyming couplet: "You fought a war in the Falklands, in that you were so strong. On the other hand, how kind of you to give away Hong Kong". The New Territories include the various New Towns built to relieve urban congestion downtown. They also include much of the "wild" part of the SAR, infested with: poisonous snakes, pythons, harmless snakes, huge but harmless spiders, semi-wild cattle and water buffalo, semi-wild monkeys and wild boar, which allow for "wilderness" scenes even in such a small and urbanized country. (It should be noted that a significant portion of Hong Kong is protected nature preserve.) Also present are many scattered villages, some still retaining old-fashioned tribal features such as village walls and most looking surprisingly poor.
- The Outlying Islands. A cluster of various islands of various sizes. The largest is Lantau. It is home to various beaches, a number of small towns, Hong Kong's small Disneyland park and a giant statue of the Buddha. There are a number of monasteries, mostly Chinese or Tibetan Buddhist, but one Trappist (you don't hear a lot from them for obvious reasons). The famous Shaolin monks have a Kung Fu school but no monastery to current knowledge. Off the coasts of this island, one may see the Chinese White Dolphin, a species that has almost no skin pigmentation as an adult and as a result always looks white or pink. They are lively and will jump high, so tourists enjoy watching them. Also home of the Hong Kong International Airport.
- Urban Environment: As the areas of Hong Kong are small and the hills make parts unsuitable for building, most people live in tower blocks. Corridors are tiled and some individual flats have steel security gates (the new private residential buildings have none, unless you install one yourself), as a result coming home to a Hong Kong flat is like the opening sequence of Porridge: echoing footfalls, jingling keys and clanging metal bars. Smaller villages have little three-storey buildings which are a lot nicer. The juxtaposition of rich and poor is amazing: a multi-million-dollar mansion may be just up the road from a huddle of corrugated iron squatter huts that look as if they are held together with snot and toothpaste. The Peninsular Hotel, the poshest place in town (James Bond slept there in Die Another Day, almost certainly with someone else) is literally just across the road from Chunking Mansions, Kowloon's most notorious slum. Some of the older residential buildings have shacks built on their roofs which are inhabited by poorer families. Due to the lack of urban planning in the earlier days, a lot of juxtapositions like these tend to happen. For example, a cramped street in Yau Ma Tei has a Jockey Club betting station, a Hong Kong style cafe, a lightning shop and a coffin shop right next to each other, all under very old, 7-8 storey residential buildings. On Temple Street, while one section does sell Buddhist religions records and it is famous for palm-readers and fortune tellers, a significant part of it also sells sex toys. Right in front of a public library, which in turn is next to the death certificate registration center, and there's a brothel quite nearby too.
- Natural environment: The climate is hot and humid most of the year, but not hot and humid enough for a full-on rainforest. The result is a sort of half-hearted jungle about twenty to forty feet high (10 meters or so) with creepers, thorns spikes and sharp-edged leaves: it is a nightmare to push through if you get off the many hiking trails. Local wildlife includes cobras and kraits, Burmese pythons, pangolins, macaques, water buffalo, boars, various kinds of deer, fifteen species of bat, mongooses and sundry lizards, rats. The Mai Po marshes are a famous reserve for migratory water birds. There was even a (small) crocodile once. They brought in an Australian crocodile hunter (not that one) and it's now in the aforementioned Mai Po Wetlands park.
- Transport: As most people live in tower blocks and there are few parking places, many families have no cars so public transport is very important. It includes the trams on Hong Kong side, a tram-train light rail system called the LRT in parts of the New Territories, and a huge number of double-decker buses and minibuses plying their trade all over the SAR. The MTR is an underground rail network whose speed, cleanliness and reliability would shame the London Tube, the New York Subway or Le Métropolitain. The company recently took over the Kowloon-Canton Railway and so now handles the above-ground trains also. Rickshaws are a thing of the past now: the last few in town stand forlorn by the Star Ferry pier, for sale to anyone who wants one as a curiosity. Indeed, transportation is very convenient in general - there are a lot of buses and light buses (coming in green and red varieties - the former has fixed stops and the latter doesn't).
- Culture: A lot of people still hold a variety of traditional Chinese religious and mystical beliefs loosely linked to Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, so one may regularly see people burning incense, paper effigies of luxury goods and bundles of "Hell Money" for their departed relatives, shrines to various local gods are often in evidence (Kuan Yin, goddess of mercy and Kuan-Ti god of war and upholder of justice are popular, so is the sea goddess A-Ma in fishing villages). Many people worry about the Feng Shui of their buildings etc. Politically, Hong Kong is often characterized as being relatively classical liberal or libertarian (i.e. small and non-interventionist government), and this is true for the international sectors of the economy. The domestic economy, however, is quite heavily cartelized by a small number of well-connected government-favored corporations (see Joe Studwell's Asian Godfathers for more), thus making Hong Kong a mixed economy with significant levels of mercantilist/corporatist statism. Within society, you may find a lot of people who have mixed loyalties supporting Chinese vs British teams and people if they come head-to-head (e.g. Olympics) because of the cultural differences between the PRC and SAR, and the extremely amicable history with the UK. Hong Kong has three official languages: Guangdonghua (Cantonese), Putonghua (Mandarin Chinese) and English. Most people speak Cantonese, although people are also learning the official language language of China, Putonghua (Mandarin). You can generally get by in English.
- Crime: There is a fair deal of drug abuse and protection racketeering overseen by the famous Triads (called Tongs in some Western fiction) such as the Wo Group and the 14K society. Most of these groups are in uneasy truce with each other most of the time, so if you happen to see large posses of young men with knives squaring off in the street, look around for the cameras: it's more likely to be a movie scene than a real gang war. Mostly the Triads won't stand for physical harm coming to foreign tourists as it's bad for business, so if you visit Hong Kong you won't get mugged. You probably will get scandalously overcharged, but that's another story. Hong Kong is also known for its stringent gun control, and there hasn't been a civilian shooting for many years. Any sort of firearm releasing kinetic energy of over 2 Joules are banned, and troops of armed cops are known to storm citizen residences when they have evidence of modified/smuggled guns. There is a local lottery - Mark Six. Gambling is also legal in a limited sense. The Jockey Club is in charge of the famous horse races, the Mark Six and is the only legal source for football gambling. Consequently, it is very rich, and can afford to run numerous charities and medical clinics.
- Military: Before Hong Kong was returned to China, the citizens could join the UK forces. However, Hong Kong citizens cannot join the People's Liberation Army because there aren't laws that deal with recruitment. There have been talk in recent years about letting Hong Kong citizens join, as around 2.5% of the population has expressed interest in joining. However, until the lawmakers of Hong Kong amends the constitution, the only military force in Hong Kong will still be mainland soldiers stationed in Hong Kong. There are paramilitary counter-terrorism forces such as the PTU (Police Tactical Unit) and the SDU (Special Duties Unit) that comprises the elites of the Hong Kong Police Force. Using mainly western weapons, i.e. MP5, AR15, MGS90, the original SDU members were trained by the SAS. Personnel are selected from the PTU, and the requirements/training are extremely rigorous. As a result, the SDU has never failed a single mission.
- Politics: Since the handover in 1997, Hong Kong has existed within the Chinese state under the idea of "One country, two systems". This was part of the handover deal with the British, which aimed to guarantee that Hong Kong would retain many of its existing freedoms for at least 50 years after the handover, however no plans are explicitly stated for how Hong Kong will be handled after those 50 years are up (in 2047). Under this system, Hong Kong is governed by its own Legislative Council (LegCo) headed by a Chief Executive. The LegCo is, at least on paper, similar to a devolved government in the United Kingdom or a state government in the USA - responsible for administering affairs within the Hong Kong SAR, or at least, anything not reserved to Beijing. Hong Kong also retains a separate judiciary from mainland China, and is governed by its own separate constitution - the Basic Law. Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement should be applied when discussing how "democratic" or otherwise separate from the Communist government in Beijing these institutions actually are in reality. The system trundled along without much attention for the first ten or so years after the handover. But in The New '10s and The New '20s, an increasing amount of pro-democracy and anti-China sentiment has arisen, with large-scale demonstrations frequently occurring for extended periods of time. These have happened mostly in response to perceived power grabs by the mainland government or apparent erosion of the SAR's freedoms. The introduction of a new security law in 2020, which essentially criminalised criticism of the Chinese government, only served to complicate matters further, leading to criticisms that the CCP is trying to take back control of Hong Kong 27 years too early. Unfortunately no easy solution appears to be on the horizon.
Hong Kong in fiction:
- Series/A Fist Within Four Walls(城寨英雄): Martial arts drama set in the Kowloon Walled City.
- Legal Mavericks(踩過界): Blind lawyer with heightened senses engages in vigilante work. Suspiciously similar to a Western show.
- Line Walker (使徒行者): Crime thriller following the lives of undercover police agents who must live a double life in secrecy while investigating a major triad organisation.
- Tiger Cubs (飛虎): Police procedural focused on the Special Duties Unit, the elite tactical unit of the Hong Kong Police Force.
- Triumph In The Skies(衝上雲霄): Drama focused on the interpersonal and work lives of pilots working for the fictional Solar Airways, based on Hong Kong's flag carrier Cathay Pacific.
Locally produced films:
See Hong Kong Films.
Other films set in Hong Kong:
- In The Dark Knight, Batman breaks into a skyscraper in Hong Kong to "extradite" a Corrupt Corporate Executive. This was filmed at the International Finance Centre II.
- The city becomes a battlefield for Kaijus in Godzilla vs. Kong.
- The 1995 French film Guardian Angels stars Gérard Depardieu as a French cabaret owner who must go to Hong Kong to protect the son of a gangster friend of his who stole $15 million to the Triads and got killed.
- James Bond went there three times:
- You Only Live Twice: He gets "killed" in Hong Kong at the start of the film.
- The Man with the Golden Gun : He goes to a secret MI6 base that's been built inside the wrecked RMS Queen Elizabeth in the harbour.
- Die Another Day: Bond is brought there by MI6 after being freed from captivity in North Korea. He escapes and goes to a hotel. The Chinese secret agent running the hotel initially thinks Bond is up to something to retake the city on behalf of the UK, while he's really just after a terrorist.
- Rush Hour 2 starts with Carter visiting Lee in Hong Kong on vacation before they get pulled into a case when the United States Consulate General is bombed.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops has a couple of missions taking place in the famed Walled City in the 1960s, where you have to run across corrugated metal roofs on a rainy night in pursuit of someone. A low-flying plane coming in for a landing at Kai Tak passes above your head at one point.
- Sleeping Dogs is about an undercover cop investigating the Triads in Hong Kong. The game takes place over several different parts of Hong Kong.
- Shenmue II starts off in Wan Chai in 1987 before moving to Kowloon.
- Street Fighter:
- In Street Fighter II, while it's never been specified what part of China Chun-Li hails from, her stage is speculated to be based on Chun Yeung Street. Fei Long's stage is explicitly stated to be Hong Kong as a separate location from China, though that's to be expected for a Bruce Lee Clone.
- The 3rd game in the Alpha series places Gen's stage next to Victoria Harbour. As the series is a prequel to Street Fighter II, Kai Tak airport and its dramatic jet airliner landings in the midst of the city itself are still things which you can see in the background to his stage.
- The 2nd expansion for Shadowrun Returns takes place in Hong Kong, with a rebuilt Kowloon Walled City having a central role in the plot.
- From what has been shown in promotional material, Splatoon 3's Hub Level, Splatsville, is modeled heavily after Hong Kong, with extensive use of mixed-use high-rise buildings that have shutter-doored businesses on the ground floor and apartments on subsequent floors as well as neon signs as part of the architectural style.
- As one can probably gather from the subtitle, A Summer's End Hong Kong, 1986 takes place in Hong Kong in 1986. The Visual Novel is described by the creators as "a new media homage to Hong Kongs golden age of entertainment," making several references to Hong Kong's music scene and cinema of the time. The story also takes place one year after the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed, and the handover is a looming presence of uncertainty that comes up throughout the game several times.
The Hong Kong flag
The Chinese national anthem
- Devolved executive-led system within a socialist republic
- Chief Executive: Carrie Lam
- Chief Secretary: Matthew Cheung
- Council President: Andrew Leung
- Chief Justice: Andrew Cheung
- Capital: Hong Kong
- Largest District: Sha Tin
- Population: 7,500,700
- Area: 1,110.18 km (428.64 sq mi)
- Currency: Hong Kong dollar (HK$) (HKD)
- ISO-3166-1 Code: HK