Another card from my friend Jay’s recent round-the-world journey, this time from my favorite Asian city — Hong Kong. It’s my favorite despite my most recent visit 13 years ago having occurred in the middle of a typhoon (during which I STILL crossed the harbor in one of the old iconic Star ferries) and having been booked into the Metropole Hotel (which, it turned out, was ground-zero for the spread of the SARS pandemic). I long to return and will try in early 2018.
Hong Kong (香港) translates as “fragrant harbor or incense harbor” and is officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Since the British lease on the territory expired in mid-1997, it is currently an autonomous territory on the Pearl River Delta in East Asia. Macau lies across the delta to the west, and the Chinese province of Guangdong borders the territory to the north. With a total land area of 427 square miles (1,106 square kilometers) and a population of over 7.3 million of various nationalities, it ranks as the world’s fourth most densely populated sovereign state or territory.
Hong Kong became a British colony after the First Opium War (1839–42), with the perpetual cession of Hong Kong Island, followed by the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 and a 99-year lease of the New Territories from 1898. Hong Kong was later occupied by Japan during the Second World War until British control resumed in 1945. In the early 1980’s, negotiations between the United Kingdom and China resulted in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which paved way for the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997, when it became a special administrative region (SAR) with a high degree of autonomy.
Under the principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong maintains a separate political and economic system from China. Except in military defence and foreign affairs, Hong Kong maintains its independent executive, legislative and judiciary powers. In addition, Hong Kong develops relations directly with foreign states and international organisations in a broad range of “appropriate fields”.
Hong Kong is one of the world’s most significant financial centres, with the highest Financial Development Index score and consistently ranks as the world’s most competitive and most laissez-faire economic entity in the World Competitiveness Yearbook. Its currency, the Hong Kong dollar, is the world’s thirteenth most traded currency. Hong Kong’s tertiary sector dominated economy is characterized by simple taxation with a competitive level of corporate tax and supported by international confidence in its independent judiciary system where the rule of law, not rule by law, applies to legal, contractual proceedings. However, while Hong Kong has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, it suffers from the most severe income inequality among developed economies.
Hong Kong is renowned for its deep natural harbour, which enables ready access by international cargo ships, and its skyline, with a very high density of skyscrapers; the territory boasts the second largest number of high rises of any city in the world. It has a very high Human Development Index ranking and the world’s longest life expectancy. Over 90% of the population makes use of well-developed public transportation. Seasonal air pollution with origins from neighboring industrial areas of Mainland China, which adopts loose emissions standards, has resulted in a high level of atmospheric particulates.
The postcard pictures Wan Chai (灣仔), a metropolitan area on the northern shore of Hong Kong Island and one of the busiest commercial areas in Hong Kong. The tall building is Central Plaza — a 78-story skyscraper completed in August 1992. It is currently the third tallest tower in the city and was the tallest building in Asia from 1992 to 1996. The building uses a triangular floor plan. On the top of the tower is a four-bar neon clock that indicates the time by displaying different colors for 15-minute periods, blinking at the change of the quarter. In front of Central Plaza on the waterfront is the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, one of the two major convention and exhibition venues in Hong Kong, along with AsiaWorld-Expo. Built along Victoria Harbour, it is linked by covered walkways to nearby hotels and commercial buildings.