Hong Kong became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China on 1 July 1997 (pursuant to an agreement signed by China and the UK on 19 December 1984). Previously, Hong Kong was occupied by the UK in 1841; it was formally ceded by China the following year. Various adjacent lands were added later in the 19th century.
In the agreement, China promised that, under its "one country, two systems" formula, China's socialist economic system would not be imposed on Hong Kong and that Hong Kong would enjoy a "high degree of autonomy" in all matters except foreign and defense affairs for the subsequent 50 years. Hong Kong uses both Cantonese and English as official languages. It has a 93.5% literacy rate in a population of over 7 million.
Hong Kong is roughly six times the size of Washington, DC, with a coastline of 733km and more than 200 islands. In the subtropical climate, Hong Kong has cool and humid winters, hot and rainy springs-summers, and warm and sunny fall seasons. The terrain is mostly hilly to mountainous, with lowlands in the north. One of Hong Kong's greatest natural resource is its outstanding deep-water harbor. The only major natural hazard facing Hong Kong is occasional typhoons.
CIA World Factbook, 6/2014