Foreign relations of Hong Kong

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Under the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is exclusively in charge of its internal affairs and external relations, whilst the Government of the People's Republic of China is responsible for its foreign affairs and defence.[1] As a separate customs territory, Hong Kong maintains and develops relations with foreign states and regions, and plays an active role in such international organisations as World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in its own right under the name of Hong Kong, China.[2]


Hong Kong was under British rule before 1 July 1997. Prior to the implementation of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office Act 1996 enacted by the British Parliament, Hong Kong represented its interests abroad through the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices (HKETOs) and via a special office in the British Embassies or High Commissions, but the latter ceased after the sovereignty of Hong Kong was transferred to the PRC and became a special administrative region (SAR) of the PRC in 1997.[3] At present, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices under the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in countries that are the major trading partners of Hong Kong, including Japan, Canada, Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, the European Union as well as an ETO in Geneva to represent HKSAR Government in the WTO. These offices serve as the official representative of the Government of the Hong Kong SAR in these countries and international organisations. Its major functions include facilitating trade negotiations and handling trade related matters, inter-government relations with foreign governments; the promoting of investment in Hong Kong; and liaising with the media and business community. The Hong Kong Government has also set up the Hong Kong Tourism Board with offices in other countries and regions to promote tourism.[4]

Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in the Dupont Circle neighbourhood of Washington, D.C.

The Hong Kong SAR Government also has an office in Beijing, and three HKETOs at Guangzhou (Guangdong ETO), Shanghai and Chengdu. An HKETO will be set up at Wuhan in the future. The Central People's Government of the PRC also maintains a liaison office in Hong Kong. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a representative office in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong makes strenuous law enforcement efforts, but faces serious challenges in controlling transit of heroin and methamphetamine to regional and world markets; modern banking systems that provide a conduit for money laundering; rising indigenous use of synthetic drugs, especially among young people.

Hong Kong has its own immigration policy and administration. Permanent residents of Hong Kong with PRC nationality hold a different type of passport, called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Passport, which is different from that for PRC citizens in Mainland China.[5] Hong Kong permanent residents and mainland Chinese need a passport-like document (the "Home Return Permit" for Hong Kong permanent residents and the Two-way Permit for Mainland Chinese) to cross the Sino-Hong Kong border. Visitors from other countries and regions not participating in waiver programme are required to apply for visas directly to the Hong Kong Immigration Department.

Agreements with foreign states

In accordance with Article 151 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong concluded over 20 agreements with foreign states in 2010 on matters such as economic and financial co-operation, maritime technical co-operation, postal co-operation and co-operation on wine-related businesses. With the authorisation of the Central People's Government of the PRC, Hong Kong also concluded 12 bilateral agreements with foreign states on air services, investment promotion and protection, mutual legal assistance and visa abolition during the year.

International organisation participation

Overseas visits made by senior officials

The Chief Executive of Hong Kong and other senior officials often make a duty visit to foreign countries. These visits usually aims to advance Hong Kong's economic and trade relations with the foreign countries. During these visits, the Chief Executive will meet with political and business leaders. Usually, the head of state or head of government of the foreign countries will receive the Chief Executive. For example, former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa made three visits to the United States during his term. In these three visits, Tung Chee-hwa met with the U.S. President in the Oval Office at the White House. Chief Executive Donald Tsang had visited Japan, South Korea, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Brazil, India, France and other countries during his term of government.

For example, The Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, visited London and Edinburgh on 2011 as part of his European tour to renew ties with the UK and promote Hong Kong as a gateway to Asia. He met Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.[6] In Mid-2011, Donald Tsang visited Australia in June to strengthen ties between Hong Kong and Australia, promote trade opportunities, and encourage more Australian companies, particularly resources companies, to list in Hong Kong. During his visit, Mr Tsang held meetings with the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, as well as the leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, and the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop.

Many foreign dignitaries visit Hong Kong each year.[7] The number of such visits has grown since 1997 as many of them have included Hong Kong as a destination on their trips to China, while others have visited Hong Kong specifically to see "one country, two systems" in operation. The level of VIP visits is also boosted by major international conferences held in Hong Kong in recent years. In 2009–2012, there were 11 official visits to Hong Kong, including the visits of the Prime Minister of Canada, Secretary of State of the United States of America, President of the Russian Federation, President of the Republic of Indonesia, and other foreign dignitaries.

Overseas representation in Hong Kong

When Hong Kong was under British rule, most Commonwealth member states, unlike other countries, were represented in Hong Kong by Commissions. However, following the 1997 handover, they were all renamed Consulates-General. Owing to Hong Kong's economic importance, and the large number of British passport holders, the British Consulate-General is the largest of its kind in the world and bigger than many British Embassies and High Commissions abroad.[8]

Most countries maintain Consulates-General or Consulates in Hong Kong. However, despite their name, many Consulates-General are not subordinate to their country's embassy to the PRC in Beijing. For example, the British Consulate-General is directly subordinate to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK rather than the British embassy in the Chinese capital.[9] The Consul-General of the United States, likewise, holds ambassadorial rank, and reports to the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs in the US Department of State.[10] By contrast, the US Consuls-General posted to Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang report to the Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Beijing who is directly subordinate to the US ambassador.

Relations with Taiwan

From 2010, the relationship between the territory and Taiwan is managed through the Hong Kong-Taiwan Economic and Cultural Co-operation and Promotion Council (ECCPC) and Taiwan-Hong Kong Economic and Cultural Co-operation Council (ECCC). Meanwhile, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office is a de facto mission of the Republic of China (Taiwan) in Hong Kong.[11]

Relations with South Korea

The Hong Kong government has a Working Holiday Program Agreement with the Republic of Korea. The Republic of Korea has a Consulate General in Hong Kong while Hong Kong has an overseas office in Seoul. The Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying visited Korea in Nov 26, 2014.[12]

See also




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