Order Code RL33013
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Hong Kong 2005: Changes in Leadership
and Issues for Congress
July 15, 2005
Analyst in Asian Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Hong Kong 2005: Changes in Leadership and Issues
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) has recently
recovered from an economic downturn and the SARS virus outbreak of 2002-2003
which crippled trade and tourism. There has also been a major change in top
government personnel, with the former Chief Executive, Tung Chee-Hwa, being
replaced by Donald Tsang as the new Chief Executive of Hong Kong. The next major
issue to be addressed in Hong Kong is the pace of further democratization and the
extent to which the next elections for the Legislative Counsel will be based on direct
elections of all seats or a larger portion thereof.
Hong Kong continues to participate productively and constructively in
numerous multi-lateral fora encompassing economic, security, and trade issues.
Hong Kong maintains an active and independent voice in organizations such as the
World Trade Organization (WTO), the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
forum, Interpol, and the Financial Action Task Force. In addition, Hong Kong has to
date been a very proactive partner with the United States in the Container Security
Initiative (CSI) and continues to support anti-terrorism efforts through its lawenforcement and anti-money laundering efforts.
The rule of law and the existence of an independent judiciary remain the main
foundations of Hong Kong’s vibrant economy. The legal system of Hong Kong also
provides a model for the Mainland in regards to legal reforms and resources for the
institution building necessary for such reforms to take root and hold.
Freedom of speech, religion, press, association, and assembly continue to be
respected and defended in Hong Kong with few exceptions. Those exceptions that
do arise are viewed by some observers as a result of pressure from Beijing on
politically sensitive topics such as the Falun Gong, challenges to Chinese
sovereignty, and the reach of democratic reforms. There have also been numerous
allegations and rumors of “self-censorship” in the press, though this is mostly
anecdotal. Some members of the press and broadcast media perceive retaliation for
highly critical editorials or unfavorable news reports by the alleged threat of
withholding advertising revenues and access to government officials.
For further information on this subject see the following Congressional
Research Service products: CRS Report RS20786, Hong Kong-U.S. Economic
Relations, CRS Report RL30895, Hong Kong’s Ongoing Transition: Implications
of Chinese Sovereignty in 2001, and CRS Report 97-311, Hong Kong’s Reversion to
China: Problems and Remedies for the United States. This report will not be updated.
Congressional Interests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Political Status of Hong Kong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Election of Donald Tsang as Chief Executive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Legislative Council and 2004 Elections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Hong Kong Political Parties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Political Trends . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Flow of Political Ideas from Hong Kong to the Mainland . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Other Political Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Rule of Law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Hong Kong’s Effect on the “One Country, Two Systems” Model . . . . 6
Religious Freedoms and the Falun Gong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Press Freedom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Economic Situation in Hong Kong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Hong Kong Economy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
U.S.-Hong Kong Business Interests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Port of Hong Kong’s Strategic Importance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
International Financial, Business, and Trade Hub . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Industry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Tourism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
The Pearl River Delta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
CEPA: Mainland-Hong Kong Free Trade Pact . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Other Commercial Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Export Control Policy Toward Hong Kong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Hong Kong 2005: Changes in Leadership
and Issues for Congress
The United States retains substantial economic and political interests in the
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR).1 Support for the economic,
personal, and political freedoms of Hong Kong, and its nearly seven million citizens
remains a cornerstone of U.S. policy towards Hong Kong under Chinese sovereignty.
Towards this end, the United States Congress enacted the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy
Act (P.L. 102-383) which was designed to ensure that Hong Kong is treated
separately from China for purposes of U.S. trade laws, immigration, and security
cooperation.2 Under the act, he United States Congress is charged with oversight of
the required provisions including the promotion of an autonomous and democratic
Pursuant to P.L. 102-383, the Bush Administration has continued the practice
of past presidential administrations by publishing and certifying the Annual Hong
Kong Report (prepared by the Department of State) that Hong Kong has adhered to
its responsibilities under the above mentioned legislation and has continued to
preserve its democratic and economically liberal character as a separate Special
Administrative Region of China as agreed to under the Basic Law. The President has
the authority to end this separate treatment for Hong Kong if he determines that Hong
Kong is no longer able to act autonomously.
Political Status of Hong Kong
Election of Donald Tsang as Chief Executive. Tung Chee-Hwa’s early
resignation (due to unspecified health reasons), was seen by many as an
acknowledgment that Beijing found his growing unpopularity, aloof administrative
approach, and poor handling of the economy was a political liability for the Mainland
Chinese government.3 However, his resignation was seen by many observers as a way
for China to save “face” without acknowledging Beijing’s political failure and
Hong Kong, in accordance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration, was handed over by
the United Kingdom to China on July , 1997and has since been governed by its constitution,
the Basic Law.
U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, 22 U.S.C. 5731, as amended; see
Tung Chee-Hwa was the first Chief Executive of Hong Kong, appointed July 1, 1997, and
he governed Hong Kong through a turbulent period which saw the Asian financial crisis, the
SARS outbreak, and an economy that seemed to be on a downturn.
Tung’s poor management of Hong Kong’s nascent political scene. This
interpretation carries some weight as Tung was appointed to a new position as the
Vice Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC),
a post of mostly symbolic value with no power.
Donald Tsang’s election and subsequent appointment as Chief Executive (CE),
replacing Tung Chee-Hwa, is seen by many Hong Kong analysts as a watershed
moment for the SAR4. While unsure of Mr. Tsang’s future agenda, many of Hong
Kong’s people see him as a more effective advocate of Hong Kong’s interests in
relation to the central government in Beijing. Unlike his predecessor, Tsang is a
product of the civil service and a former member of the colonial administration while
Tung was a successful businessman.5 As such, some analysts surmise that Tsang
may have a better chance of gaining the civil services’ loyalties and allaying Hong
Kongers’ fears that their political freedoms will be compromised. In addition, Tsang
currently enjoys a very high public approval rating of around 75% and the support of
many business interests in Hong Kong, most of whom are seen as advocates of close
relations with China and the central government.6
Thus, with the support from both pro-Beijing and pro-democracy forces, Tsang
has a unique potential to administer from the center. However, it is also said that
Beijing hardliners worry about Tsang’s close association with the former British
administration and, as such, plan on keeping a close eye on Hong Kong’s
Many analysts believe that Tsang’s British connection is the reason for his
“probationary period” of two years instead of the full five normally provided by the
Basic Law. The National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee created the
special two-year term according to its “interpretation” of the Basic Law, Hong
Kong’s constitution. The Basic Law did not specify a mechanism for selecting a
replacement for a Chief Executive who does not fulfill his or her full term. At issue
was whether the new Chief Executive would complete the prior Chief Executive’s
term or whether the replacement would be elected to a full five-year term in office.
After much discussion and some public protest by “pro-democracy” activists,
the Hong Kong government argued that Mr. Tung’s replacement should only fill out
his remaining term, and the NPC Standing Committee ruled in favor of this position.
To many critics this was seen as an attempt by Beijing to limit Tsang’s policy leeway
and ensure that if Tsang does not work out as planned, there would be an opportunity
to replace him shortly. Some opponents of this decision pointed out that, had a full
five-year term been allowed, the possibility for a reform of electoral laws would have
While the Chief Executive is ostensibly “elected” by an 800-member Election Committee
in Hong Kong, the Committee members themselves are appointed by Beijing, and many,
thus, see the Chief Executive under these circumstances to be Beijing’s de facto
Donald Tsang was knighted (KBE) as Sir Donald Tsang by Prince Charles in June of 1997
after more than three decades of distinguished service to the British colonial administration.
Marianne Bray, “Tsang Set to Clinch HK Leadership”, CNN, July 13, 2005.
been postponed until the next election and, therefore, the Chinese government would
be seen as “delaying” the implementation of popular democracy.7
Once the issue of the length of term in office to be served was settled, the
process continued and Donald Tsang (with the support of big business and proBeijing groups)was nominated by over 700 members of the 800-person Election
Committee, won an uncontested election, and was confirmed by the policymaking
PRC State Council. The real test of the incoming Chief Executive is likely to come
in October 2005, when he will give his first policy address. Tsang is also likely to
face an early test when the Hong Kong government’s Task Force on Constitutional
Development report reveals its plan on the timing of further democratization. Tsang
has stated that while, “of course democracy is our ultimate aim, it must occur in an
orderly and measured fashion” and that, “Hong Kong is a relatively late starter in the
race to democracy and it took the United States over 200 years to reach full
democracy. Hong Kong is still very young.”
It is interesting to note that while in the summer of 2003 over 500,000 of Hong
Kong’s citizens marched in the streets (on the July 1 anniversary of Hong Kong’s
return to China) against the controversial national security bill then being pushed by
Tung Chee-Hwa, and in July 2004 over 200,000 people demonstrated for democracy,
in 2005 the crowd turnout was comparatively light at 20,000 people, less than the
pro-Beijing event earlier in the day which drew approximately 30,000 supporters.8
Some people feel that this decline in the number of Hong Kong protesters reflects
greater public confidence in Tsang than his predecessor.
Legislative Council and 2004 Elections. Hong Kong’s other main
political institution is the 60-seat Legislative Council (also known locally as the
Legco), consisting of 30 geographically based seats that are directly elected at the
district level and 30 seats that are elected by “functionalities:” industrial sector
interest groups, professional groups, and unions.9 Traditionally, the functional seats
are seen as more likely to elect a pro-Beijing candidate. However, that perception is
changed somewhat as pro-democracy parties made limited inroads in picking up
functional seats in the 2004 election.
Hong Kong Political Parties. Hong Kong has a vibrant political scene,
evidenced by the high voter turnout in the last election, with many parties contesting
in Legco elections and advocating different visions of Hong Kong’s future. The most
prominent of these are the Democratic Party of Hong Kong (DP), the Democratic
Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), and the Liberal Party (LP). The
political parties tend to be associated with one of two general camps — one that is
“pro-Beijing” and one that is “pro-democracy”. On some issues, however, such as on
constitutional reform, party ideologies have blurred.
The Hong Kong government subsequently amended the Chief Executive Election
Ordinance to clarify the replacement procedures for a Chief Executive who does not serve
out his full term.
“HK Sees Muted Anniversary Protest,” BBC News, July 1, 2005.
“Election Blow for HK Democrats,” CNN, September 12, 2004.
In the last election, the pro-Beijing DAB party did much better than many had
expected, almost doubling its representation in the Legco among the directly elected
seats and maintaining its dominance amongst the functional seats. Some observers
interpret this as a sign of voters’ desire for stability and smoother, more constructive
relations with Beijing. The DAB won 12 seats in the 2004 elections and forms the
largest party in the Legislative Council.
The Liberal Party’s origin dates back to a business grouping that had existed for
some time prior to the handover and was the first to organize itself as a political party
under the new system. It is reliably pro-business and often cooperates with the DAB
to form a pro-government majority. In the 2004 election, the Liberal Party retained
its role as a crucial swing bloc in the Legco. The LP won 10 seats to surpass the
Democratic Party as the second largest party.
The Democratic Party is the most vocal party in support of more democracy and
the introduction of direct elections for both the entire Legco and the position of Chief
Executive. They experienced slim gains (picking up only one seat) in the
geographical constituencies but unexpectedly picked up several more in the
functional constituencies. The DP called for and received a partial recount for
alleged voting irregularities but the electoral commission was able to explain the
irregularities and the final results did not change.10 Overall, the Democratic Party
took 9 seats to become the third largest party in the Legco. This represents a slight
slippage in Democratic seats from the past.
Political Trends. It appears as if Hong Kongers’ are optimistic in the face of
the resignation of former Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa and his replacement by
Donald Tsang. The pro-Beijing political parties experienced a substantial boost in
legislative success and, according to some analysts, could effectively stymie most
attempts by pro-democracy groups to pressure for more direct elections and a rapid
implementation of democratic reform. The pro-democracy groups have had political
difficulties in recent years due to internal dissension and to charges that they are not
particularly attentive to their constituents’ concerns or problems. There has been
some fracture in the pro-democracy camp and a greater number of aligned, but nonparty, independents have been elected who generally tend to support the prodemocracy parties in Legco sessions. Thus, the resignation of Tung and the
subsequent appointment appears to have aided the pro-Beijing parties in the last
Beijing appears to have acquired greater leverage over governmental
policymaking and is seen by some as slowly eroding Hong Kong’s democratic
orientation that is enshrined in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution. The fact
that Mainland authorities were able to assume the role of the final arbiter in the Chief
Executive’s appointment and successfully push for a shortened term of office for
Tsang, was decried by some democracy supporters as an infringement on Hong
Kong’s democratic system and a sign of a slow, almost imperceptible rollback of
democracy. Britain has voiced concern over this and has maintained that Hong Kong
should retain the democratic character written into the Basic Law as agreed upon in
the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
“Democrats Demand HK Recount,” CNN, September 12, 2005.
The timing of electoral reform appears to be the next contentious issue on the
horizon and has the capability of sowing more dissent and political instability.
Beijing and many Hong Kong democracy activists disagree as to the speed and extent
of electoral reforms as the Basic Law is unclear as it relates to the timing and
mechanisms of any reform. Some are focused solely on increasing the number of
directly elected seats in the Legco and phasing out the functional or occupational
seats. Furthermore, others are pushing for the direct election of the Chief Executive.
Mainland officials view this as a violation of the Basic Law and are concerned that
if done too soon, electoral reform will weaken their influence in Hong Kong and
have, in their view, undesirable effects on nearby Mainland provinces. Some
analysts posit that this weakening of Beijing’s control could possibly paralyze
legislation and create strains between the two governments.
Flow of Political Ideas from Hong Kong to the Mainland. Beijing
authorities fear political contagion or the possibility of political seepage across the
Mainland borders. Some Hong Kong analysts have argued that China is attempting
to stop the ‘seeds’ of democracy from having any effect on China. Some have
reported a slow spread of the legal and political philosophies of Hong Kong into
adjacent mainland provinces into southern China. The Pearl River Delta in
particular, including the city of Guanzhou (Canton) seems to be agitating for
increased rule of law and more political openness in part due to its close proximity
and interaction with Hong Kong. Indeed, migration (along with tourism and access
to diverse media) into and out of Hong Kong seems to drive much of this transfer of
ideas. In 2000, there were approximately 20,000 people who migrated to Hong Kong
from the Mainland. In 2004, there were over 500,000 people permanently migrating
to Hong Kong.11 Increasing numbers of workers in Hong Kong are also opting to
move to the Mainland where the cost of living and property is substantially lower and
commuting to and from their jobs in the city. This serves as a feedback loop of sorts
as these movements often bring their values with them and share them with their new
neighbors or communities. For many analysts, Hong Kong represents a “Trojan
Horse” of sorts for the transmission and dissemination of Hong Kong’s cultural and
political values into China.
However, this is not just a one way street. There are signs of increased
nationalism and “patriotism” in Hong Kong that many believe come from greater
interaction with the Mainland. When the China-Japan tension flared up in May-June
2005, there were anti-Japanese protests and rallies in Hong Kong as well as in
Shanghai and Beijing.
Other Political Issues
Rule of Law. Hong Kong retains its common law heritage from the British
colonial administration. The rule of law is often credited with Hong Kong’s
economic success and political stability. Many citizens state that it is the feature that
most distinguishes the SAR from China and that it is a major reason that corruption
in Hong Kong is so low. The rule of law also ensures that the transparency of the
Presentation by Michael DeGolyer, Associate Professor, Government and International
Studies Department, Hong Kong Baptist University, July 7, 2005.
system is maintained. In addition, social stability is enhanced by the perception of
many that one’s wealth and status is of no consequence to the independent judiciary
and therefore, “everyone is equal in the eyes of the courts.” The judiciary is wellrenowned for its political neutrality, strict adherence to the Basic Law, and openness
to other jurists hailing from other common law nations such as Australia, Britain, and
Hong Kong’s Effect on the “One Country, Two Systems” Model.
Hong Kong is the example that China often uses in its attempts to persuade Taiwan
to “re-unify” with the Mainland. It points to the success that Hong Kong has had
since its return to China in 1997 and China’s ability to successfully maintain its “one
country, two systems” promise. Consequently, some say it is in China’s interest to
ensure harmony, and economic growth in Hong Kong and any perceived rollbacks
of democracy would likely hurt its negotiating strength to convince Taiwan to accept
a similar system. Taiwanese also carefully scrutinize the situation in Hong Kong due
to the size of their investments in the region and the implications of Hong Kong’s
situation for China’s policy on Taiwan.
Religious Freedoms and the Falun Gong. The freedom to practice one’s
religion is guaranteed by Hong Kong’s Basic Law and, as such, differs greatly from
China’s approach to organized religion. An example of this difference is highlighted
by the fact that Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, is a devout,
practicing Catholic with a long tradition of contributing to Catholic organizations
involved in lay work and relief. There are many religions practiced in Hong Kong
including Christianity, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism amongst
many others that freely congregate and worship with no interference from
governmental authorities. China, on the other hand, requires religious groups to
register with the state and has banned unregistered or “unofficial” religious practices.
Civil society, in the form of religious organizations, also reinforces the right to
worship freely without governmental intervention by engaging actively with both the
public and the government to ensure its continued unencumbered status in Hong
Kong. Religious groups also have influence with business interests as many have
successful businessmen on their charity programs’ boards of directors and receive
large donations from many of Hong Kong’s business tycoons.
While the Falun Gong are officially banned in China (listed as a “threat to state
security” and branded as an “evil cult” by the state organs responsible for regulating
and overseeing religious institutions), in Hong Kong, the Falun Gong have the
freedom to worship as they please and often publicly criticize Beijing’s treatment of
Falun Gong practitioners. In March 2002, sixteen Falun Gong practitioners were
arrested outside the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong while holding
a peaceful protest.12 Police were called in and the members were arrested and
convicted for obstruction of a public place and assaulting an officer of the peace. On
Raymond, Ma, “Falun Gong May Sue for Unlawful Arrest; Activists Consider Legal
Options After Convictions Are Quashed”, South China Morning Post, May 8, 2005.
appeal to the Court of Final Appeals, the justices dismissed the charges of obstruction
and reaffirmed the right of Hong Kong’s citizens to protest and demonstrate.13
Press Freedom. Hong Kong has a vibrant and vocal press, one of the largest
per capita in Asia. While noted for it openness and its history as a center for Asian
publishing industries, there have been allegations of “self-censorship” in the press in
Hong Kong and dissatisfaction among the ranks of some journalists who work for
many of the large daily papers. Critics say that, unlike many news divisions, editorial
content is subject to certain “pressures” from Beijing to not publish material that
could possibly damage their position.14 These alleged “pressures” include threats to
take away ad revenue, isolated harassment of editors and publishers, and an
occasional threat of bodily harm. Others say that these rumors are baseless and that
there is no proof of such behavior. Citizens of Hong Kong have unrestrained access
to diverse print, cable, and internet media from Chinese and internationally derived
Economic Situation in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Economy. According to economic forecasts, GDP growth will
slow from 8.1% in 2004 to 4.6% in 2005 and 3.6% in 2006, in line with global trends
of a slowing world economy. Trade data for April 2005 showed a 7.8% year-on-year
increase in exports and a 3.8% increase in imports. The recovery of the property
market and the subsequent recovery of the construction industry have led to the
decline in the government’s budget deficit. In addition, the Hong Kong logistics
industry is growing robustly as a consequence to China’s boom and an increase in
tourism from the Mainland continues to power further growth.15
Regional economic risks include a slowdown in the Chinese economy, increased
regional tension between China and Japan, a recurrence of Avian Flu, and any
unforseen natural disasters like the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. Also, the volatility
of the stock market is a concern as “hot money” continues to flow into Hong Kong
on speculation of a further change in China’s Renminbi (Yuan). In response, Hong
Kong has introduced a refinement to its exchange rate mechanism to prevent
speculators from using Hong Kong dollars as a proxy to bet on a revaluation in
China. Finally, trade disputes between China and the United States are a growing
concern for Hong Kong businessmen as the United States is a major export market
and their goods may be impacted by any restrictionary trade legislation passed by
U.S.-Hong Kong Business Interests. Hong Kong is a vital entrepot for
trade between China and the United States. In 2004, approximately US$36 billion
in Chinese exports to the United States flowed through Hong Kong. Twenty-eight
percent of all China-U.S. trade is routed through Hong Kong. Six billion dollars, or
Albert Wong, “Falun Gong Victory on Right to Protest,” The Standard, May 6, 2005.
“Hong Kong Printer Agrees to Keep Falun Gong-Linked Newspaper Running for Two
More Months,” Associated Press, May 18, 2005.
Hong Kong Country Report, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), June 2005.
13% of Chinese imports from the United States, transfers through Hong Kong on
route to their final destinations in the interior of the Mainland. Hong Kong itself
imported US$ 14 billion worth of goods from the United States. The biggest imports
consist of jewelry, agricultural products and foodstuffs, electronics, and computer
There are over 1,200 U.S. companies, including many of the largest U.S.
multinational corporations, with offices in Hong Kong, and over 800 U.S. firms have
their regional headquarters located in Hong Kong due its strategic position in relation
to Asian markets. Tokyo, Beijing, Manila, Seoul, Bangkok, Singapore, and other
Southeast Asian capitals are within easy traveling distance for business executives
and Hong Kong is an important conduit for exports to the United States. from Asia
as whole. More than 50,000 American citizens live in Hong Kong, forming one of
the largest expatriate communities in the territory.
As a major global financial center, Hong Kong has attracted US$ 49 billion in
U.S. foreign direct investment as of 2003.16 Hong Kong’s securities and futures
markets are actively pursued by U.S. stockbroking and fund management groups,
including Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Bear Sterns, Citigroup, Fidelity, Goldman
Sachs, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, and many others.
Conversely, in 2004, the United States was Hong Kong’s largest overseas
market for domestic exports.17 The majority of U.S. imports from Hong Kong are
apparel, photographic and optical equipment, electrical machinery, integrated
electronics, and office machines and products. Over three quarters of Hong Kong’s
exports consist of clothing and textiles which, as of January 1, 2005 enter the country
tariff-free. Hong Kong has consistently been ranked as one of the world’s freest
Port of Hong Kong’s Strategic Importance. Hong Kong’s port system
has been its central commercial feature for hundreds of years. Its sheltered, natural
harbor continues to provide good access and efficient services to vessels from around
the world. In terms of tonnage, Hong Kong’s port is one of the world’s largest. In
2001, a total of 37,350 vessels made a port call in Hong Kong. Its container port, the
Kwai Chung Container Port, handled 17.8 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units),
making it the world’s busiest container port. The recently completed terminal,
Container Terminal Nine (CT9), adds six new berths for a total capacity of over 14
million TEUs a year. The Hong Kong shipping registry is a major location for ship
owning and management with over 34 million gross tonnes owned or managed in
Hong Kong. The port also has extensive ferry service to the outlying islands of Hong
Kong and ferry jet service to Macau.
The port and shipping lanes that Hong Kong has historically provided continue
to be vital to trans-Pacific commerce. Many products of third-country provenance
pass through Hong Kong on their way to many commercial centers including
United States Department of Treasury, National Trade Estimate (NTE) Report, 2005.
Hand-out, Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Trade and
Industry Department, July 2005.
Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, India, the Middle East, Europe, and the United
States. While the Port of Hong Kong is not irreplaceable, with Singapore and
Shanghai offering credible alternatives, the shipping lanes are vital for modern
shipping logistics and safer than almost all of the alternatives in the area. On a related
note, the Port of Hong Kong is also an important port of call for the U.S. Navy’s
Pacific Fleet, and other than EP-3 Aries aircraft,18 units requesting permission to
operate in the area have generally been allowed to do so. These military assets play
a crucial role in patrolling and securing the shipping lanes for commercial traffic.
International Financial, Business, and Trade Hub. Hong Kong holds
the distinction of being one of Asia’s premier international financial and business
centers and the most strategic location for many regional headquarters in the AsiaPacific region. Hong Kong is the seventh largest center for foreign exchange
transactions with three-quarters of the world’s top 100 banks having operations in the
Hong Kong’s stock market is the second largest in Asia after Tokyo and is
among the top ten stock exchanges in the world. In April 2004, over 863 companies
with a market capitalization of US$ 679 billion were listed on the Main Board. Hong
Kong’s Stock Exchange also serves as a entry point for foreign investors seeking to
invest in China through Hong Kong partnerships or subsidiaries. Chinese firms have
also joined the Main Board, expanding the list by 274 enterprises and adding extra
depth and breadth in the securities markets. Hong Kong is also the leading fund
management center in Asia, drawing in over US$ 378 billion in assets (63% of this
from overseas investors) and 93 fund management companies approved to manage
fund investments.19 Other important trade and financial services include the robust
insurance industry and two active gold markets whose customers include banks,
major bullion houses, and gold trading companies.
After China, Hong Kong ranks as the second best performing host economy for
foreign direct investment (FDI) in Asia.20 In 2003, FDI amounted to US$13.6 billion,
the equivalent of 8.7 percent of GDP.21 Hong Kong still far outpaces Shanghai as
a financial, business, and trade hub for foreign investors looking to do business in
China due to Hong Kong’s highly cosmopolitan character, its impressive
transportation and telecommunications infrastructure, and its institutionalized rule
of law. With economic forecasts pointing towards a modest rebound of growth rates
This may be due to Chinese sensitivities that arose with the Hainan-EP-3 incident that
took place on April 1, 2001.
Hand-out, Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Trade and
Industry Department, July 2005.
World Investment Report 2003, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
World Investment Report 2003, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
to around 4.6%, Hong Kong looks set to maintain and extend its dominance in
serving as the entrepot-of-choice to China from the rest of the world.22
Industry. Hong Kong enjoys a vibrant industrial sector that features a laissezfaire regulatory system and a dynamic export market. One of the world’s leading
exporters of textiles, clothing, toys, and timepieces, Hong Kong exports 80% of its
manufactured goods to China, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
Much of this success can be credited to the simple tax structure and low tax rates and
a firm commitment to free trade and a free market economy. However, much of
Hong Kong’s manufacturing base has migrated to the nearby Pearl River Delta on the
Mainland in search of cheaper inputs such as land and labor; Hong Kong has
responded by emphasizing its service economy and it has identified the service
industry as the main area for economic growth in the future. Economic planning in
Hong Kong is practically non-existent. There is no state protection, state assistance,
or subsidization of industry in Hong Kong beyond that of ensuring the necessary
infrastructure is in place for an efficient, effective business environment.
Tourism. As Asia’s most popular tourist destination, tourism is one of the
main drivers of economic growth in Hong Kong. In 2002, over 16.5 million people,
a 20% increase over the previous year, visited Hong Kong with over half coming
from the Mainland. With Hong Kong Disneyland opening in August of 2005 many
analysts expect the attraction to bring over 5 million people and 1.5 million new
tourists to Hong Kong in its first year of operation. In addition to the new Disney
theme park, there are plans to improve the tourism facilities in Hong Kong by
upgrading many cultural, art, and entertainment areas in Kowloon, by promoting
Lantau Island as a tourist destination, by renovating the historic and entertainment
districts in Central, and by further developing Ocean Park’s position as the focus of
the new Aberdeen Harbour tourism node.
Hong Kong’s film industry also serves as a bellwether of sorts for gauging the
success of the tourist and cultural industries in the city. Hong Kong’s long legacy of
being a leader in Asia’s film industry has also cemented its place in the global film
circuit with films being shown at renowned film festivals such as Sundance and
Cannes and at theaters globally. Hong Kong has developed tourist attractions that
showcase actors, directors, and other film artists and bring hundreds of thousands of
Mainlanders to Hong Kong to pay homage to their favorite film stars.
The Pearl River Delta. Twenty years ago, the Pearl River Delta (PRD) in
Guangdong Province was mostly undeveloped agricultural land too far removed from
any major industrial centers to develop much of an economy beyond subsistence
farming and trade in animal husbandry goods and foodstuffs. Now it is one of the
world’s fastest growing economies and home to over 53,000 Hong Kong companies
that employ over 10 million people in and around the PRD.
The Greater PRD Region is composed of 49 million people in over 14 Mainland
cities and provinces, Hong Kong, and Macau. It serves as a leading trading hub,
manufacturing base, consumer market, and a leading destination of foreign direct
Hong Kong Country Report, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), June 2005.
investment in Asia. The PRD’s combined GDP of US$634 billion in 2003 places it
in the top twenty economies in the world. It is comparable to the 10-member ASEAN
group, and it is the most affluent region in China, with Hong Kong leading the way.
Hong Kong provides essential financial, legal, and logistical services to complement
the lower labor costs, cheaper property, and large manufacturing base on the
Mainland. Hong Kong serves as a transportation hub for over US$ 350 billion worth,
or 80%, of the PRD’s exports. It is a symbiotic economic relationship that many
have labeled, “the Factory of the World”.
Hong Kong and the PRD are constructing new transportation infrastructure,
including a new bridge to Macau, to accommodate increased growth and are working
together to enhance the five “flows” across their mutual boundary — labor, goods,
capital, information, and services. Economic planners hope that the end result will
be a vastly improved infrastructure and a more tightly integrated economy.
CEPA: Mainland-Hong Kong Free Trade Pact. On January 1st, 2004, a
new free trade agreement went into effect between the Mainland and Hong Kong.
This new agreement allowed tariff-free trade and early market access to Hong Kong’s
products, in some cases beyond that of the Mainland’s WTO commitments. When
combined with China’s tariff concessions under the WTO, over 90% of goods of
Hong Kong origin are granted tariff-free access. Over 18 service sectors and over a
thousand different products now have preferential market access including key
sectors such as banking, legal services, accounting, insurance, transport, management
consulting, marketing, and tourism.23
The CEPA has also led to agreements in the areas of customs inspection and
clearance, electronic commerce, trade and investment promotion, and legal/regulatory
transparency. This greatly enhances the role Hong Kong plays as an international
business center while helping the Mainland develop a better regulatory framework,
spur the implementation of transparent business laws, and discourage corruption.
Other Commercial Issues
Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Hong Kong has a separate set of
intellectual property rights (IPR) laws than China and has a very rigorous
enforcement framework in place. Piracy and trademark counterfeiting, once a
substantial problem, has largely been addressed by instituting stringent regulatory
requirements and spot checks of merchandise by the government’s Intellectual
Property Department which handles the registration of patent, copyrights, and
trademarks, and the Customs and Excise Department, which handles the enforcement
of criminal prosecutions of such rights infringement. In fact, the United States has
highly praised the IPR regime in Hong Kong and has pointed it out as a model of
achievement in the area.24 However, while most large-scale counterfeiting and
pirating has been disrupted, small scale violations still occur, particularly in digital
Closer Economic Partnership Agreement
See United States Department of State, U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act Report for 2005, April
entertainment. Another issue is the transnational IPR piracy transiting through Hong
Kong from Chinese cities on the Mainland such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou
Export Control Policy Toward Hong Kong. The framework for U.S.
licensing policy for dual-use exports to Hong Kong is the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy
Act of 1992 and the Export Administration Regulations, Executive Order 12984.
This legal framework allows the continuation of export of dual-use goods to Hong
Kong as was practiced before Chinese sovereignty was established. U.S. policy is to
continue the preferential treatment of Hong Kong for dual-use licensing contingent
on continued cooperation from Hong Kong’s Customs Authorities and successful
spot checks by United States Department of Commerce personnel.
The United States continues to monitor trade to Hong Kong to protect restricted
export technologies from being diverted or misused. Currently, there is no change
foreseen to this regimen and the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export
Administration has certified Hong Kong as being in good standing under the applied
regulations for 2005.
Source: Central Intelligence Agency, World Factbook 2005, Map of Hong Kong.