Hong Kong in brief

Population: 6.3 million of whom 95 per cent are of Chinese descent (95.2 per cent speak Cantonese, 38.1 per cent speak English). While 65 per cent of the people live on 10 per cent of the land, areas of Kowloon have one of the world's highest levels of overcrowding: 195,000 people per square kilometres.

Workforce: 3.16 million in 1996. in 1995. Unemployment rate: 2.9 per cent; per capita gross domestic product: $23,000 Hong Kong has proportionately the largest number of millionaires in the world. It also has the greatest gap between rich and poor in all of Asia. Taxes on the wealthy are the lowest in the world.

Economy: Trade between China and Hong Kong has more than doubled roughly every four years over the last 20 years; Hong Kong is China's third-rank trading partner after Japan and the US; it is China's biggest source of external investment, amounting to 60 per cent of all inward capital investment.

Hong Kong is the world's eighth largest trading economy and the second largest financial centre after Tokyo, with predictions of being the best stock performer over 1997-8 (two-year 35 per cent growth) By the beginning of 1996, 4,523 foreign companies established offices in Hong Kong, 40 per cent of which arrived over the last five years. 1,756 Chinese companies are registered in Hong Kong. It handles half of China's exports and one third of Hong Kong's re-exports go to China. It's container port is one of the busiest in the world, and the Kai Tak airport is in the top five for passenger and cargo volume

Social Security: Hong Kong has no Social Security system, no Medicare health care. There is no welfare or unemployment insurance. Poor workers literally work until they die. Hong Kong also lacks the most basic laws protecting health and safety in working conditions, in sanitation, in housing or in the environment.