Prehistoric settlers in Hong Kong belonged to the “Hundred Yue” group of peoples from south China. The island was politically incorporated into the Chinese empire by the first emperor, Qin Shi Huang Ti (221–207 B.C.). Britain seized Hong Kong island from the crumbling Qing Dynasty in 1842 after China’s defeat in the Opium War, subsequently adding Kowloon and the New Territories to the area colonized. Under British rule Hong Kong became a major port and the main gateway between China and the West. The population rose from 33,000 in 1851 to 880,000 by 1931. After the Chinese revolution in 1949 and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong’s population surged dramatically as a result of the influx of refugees from the Chinese mainland, rising to 2.2 million by 1955.
From the late 1960s Hong Kong industrialized rapidly, majoring in light industries such as textiles, clothing, electronics, watches, clocks and plastic goods. With China’s reform and opening up in the early 1980s, many of these industries were moved across the border into southern China to take advantage of lower costs. Since then financial services, regional trade services and tourism have formed the backbone of Hong Kong’s economy, and it continues to hold its position as a major financial center in Asia.
Under the Joint Declaration on Hong Kong signed by China and Britain in 1984 Hong Kong was returned to Chinese sovereignty on June 30, 1997, based on the principle of “one country, two systems.” Setting a historical precedent, the agreement ensures that Hong Kong will retain its own system of administration, laws and political institutions for at least 50 years after the handover.
Hong Kong is ranked as one of the freest economies in the world, but it suffered two recessions in the past six years because of the Asian financial crisis in 1998 and the global downturn of 2001–2002. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak also battered Hong Kong’s economy, but a boom in tourism from the mainland because of China’s easing of travel restrictions, a return of consumer confidence, and a solid rise in exports resulted in the resumption of strong growth in late 2003.
Presbyterian work in Hong Kong was for many years part of the denomination’s mission in China, of which Hong Kong is a part. After most foreign missionaries left China in 1949, the PC(USA) continued to work in Hong Kong through mission personnel and in cooperation with church partners. One of its partners is the Hong Kong Christian Council (HKCC), which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2004. Established in 1954, the HKCC is composed of mainline churches and Christian organizations. Among its founding members is Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China (HKCCCC), which has historically been a partner of the PC(USA). Besides programs in church unity and ecumenical relations, the HKCC has been involved in establishing shelters for domestic workers from Indonesia and South Asia and in developing environmental study materials for use in churches and schools.
One of the PC(USA)’s mission couples works with the Amity Foundation, a social welfare and development organization started by Chinese Christians in 1985. For many years PC(USA) personnel worked with the Christian Family Service Center in Hong Kong. This center helps meet the continuing social and developmental needs of families, the elderly and children trapped in poverty in overcrowded Hong Kong. It provides counseling services and a feeding program for the elderly.
Churches in Hong Kong are united in serving the people and the society. Among their initiatives have been outreach to the marginalized groups and concern about declining morality in Hong Kong. Special emphasis has been given to ministry to families newly arrived from mainland China for family reunions. In addition, coalitions have been formed to speak out against the extension of legalized gambling and to advise the government on social welfare and educational reforms. Relations with churches in mainland China are strong, with many cooperative program and mutual visits.
Hong Kong Partner Churches and Organizations
Christian Conference of Asia (CCA)
The Christian Conference of Asia is a regional, ecumenical organization representing churches and national councils from 18 countries in Asia: Aotearoa-New Zealand, Australia, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Laos, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand.
Christian Family Service Center
Hong Kong Christian Council (HKCC)
Hong Kong Christian Institute (HKCI)
Hong Kong Women’s Christian Council
Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China (HKCCCC)
Learn more about Hong Kong
Visit the BBC country profile.
See the 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 203