Hong Kong the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China and abbreviated as HK, is a special administrative region on the eastern side of the Pearl River estuary in southern China. With over 7.4 million people of various nationalities in a 1,104-square-kilometre territory, Hong Kong is the world's fourth most densely populated region. Hong Kong became a colony of the British Empire after Qing Empire ceded Hong Kong Island at the end of the First Opium War in 1842; the colony expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 after the Second Opium War, was further extended when Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories in 1898. The entire territory was transferred to China in 1997; as a special administrative region, Hong Kong's system of government is separate from that of mainland China and its people identify more as Hongkongers rather than Chinese. A sparsely populated area of farming and fishing villages, the territory has become one of the world's most significant financial centres and commercial ports.
It is the world's seventh-largest trading entity, its legal tender is the world's 13th-most traded currency. Although the city has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, it has severe income inequality; the territory has the largest number of skyscrapers in most surrounding Victoria Harbour. Hong Kong ranks seventh on the UN Human Development Index, has the sixth-longest life expectancy in the world. Although over 90 per cent of its population uses public transportation, air pollution from neighbouring industrial areas of mainland China has resulted in a high level of atmospheric particulates; the name of the territory, first spelled "He-Ong-Kong" in 1780 referred to a small inlet between Aberdeen Island and the southern coast of Hong Kong Island. Aberdeen was an initial point of contact between local fishermen. Although the source of the romanised name is unknown, it is believed to be an early phonetic rendering of the Cantonese pronunciation hēung góng; the name translates as "fragrant harbour" or "incense harbour".
"Fragrant" may refer to the sweet taste of the harbour's freshwater influx from the Pearl River or to the odor from incense factories lining the coast of northern Kowloon. The incense was stored near Aberdeen Harbour for export. Sir John Davis offered an alternative origin; the simplified name Hong Kong was used by 1810 written as a single word. Hongkong was common until 1926, when the government adopted the two-word name; some corporations founded during the early colonial era still keep this name, including Hongkong Land, Hongkong Electric and Shanghai Hotels and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. The region is first known to have been occupied by humans during the Neolithic period, about 6,000 years ago. Early Hong Kong settlers were a semi-coastal people who migrated from inland and brought knowledge of rice cultivation; the Qin dynasty incorporated the Hong Kong area into China for the first time in 214 BCE, after conquering the indigenous Baiyue. The region was consolidated under the Nanyue kingdom after the Qin collapse, recaptured by China after the Han conquest.
During the Mongol conquest, the Southern Song court was located in modern-day Kowloon City before its final defeat in the 1279 Battle of Yamen. By the end of the Yuan dynasty, seven large families had settled in the region and owned most of the land. Settlers from nearby provinces migrated to Kowloon throughout the Ming dynasty; the earliest European visitor was Portuguese explorer Jorge Álvares, who arrived in 1513. Portuguese merchants established a trading post called in Hong Kong waters, began regular trade with southern China. Although the traders were expelled after military clashes in the 1520s, Portuguese-Chinese trade relations were reestablished by 1549. Portugal acquired a permanent lease for Macau in 1557. After the Qing conquest, maritime trade was banned under the Haijin policies; the Kangxi Emperor lifted the prohibition, allowing foreigners to enter Chinese ports in 1684. Qing authorities established the Canton System in 1757 to regulate trade more restricting non-Russian ships to the port of Canton.
Although European demand for Chinese commodities like tea and porcelain was high, Chinese interest in European manufactured goods was insignificant. To counter the trade imbalance, the British sold large amounts of Indian opium to China. Faced with a drug crisis, Qing officials pursued ever-more-aggressive actions to halt the opium trade; the Daoguang Emperor rejected proposals to legalise and tax opium, ordering imperial commissioner Lin Zexu to eradicate the opium trade in 1839. The commissioner destroyed opium stockpiles and halted all foreign trade, forcing a British military response and triggering the First Opium War; the Qing ceded Hong Kong Island in the Convention of Chuenpi. However, both countries did not ratify the agreement. After over a year of further hostilities, Hong Kong Island was formally ceded to the United Kingdom in the 1842 Treaty of Nanking. Administrative infrastructure was built up by early 1842, but piracy and hostile Qing policies towards Hong Kong prevented the government from attracting merchants.
The Taiping Rebellion, when many wealthy Chinese fled mainland turbulence and settled in the colon