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Regions and Cities for Expats in Hong Kong

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: July 2013

Hong Kong consists of some of the world’s most densely populated urban districts in the land around Victoria Harbour. Elsewhere in the flatter areas of the territory are villages, towns, and some new towns. The more mountainous parts everywhere are barely inhabited. Hong Kong is composed of three regions, as listed below:


Area (km2)


Density (per km2)

New Territories








Hong Kong Island





The original British colony of Hong Kong Island comprises the heart of the territory. The main city on the island is still officially known as Victoria, though it is commonly called Central. The CBD of Central Hong Kong is one of the world’s leading commercial centres; its main economic activities are business, finance and banking. Additionally, Hong Kong handles much of South China’s exports, and is one of the world’s busiest ports. Besides containing the most economically important district, Central is also where you will find the administrative district, the busiest shops and the best nightlife.

Away from Central, there are calmer, less densely populated areas such as Aberdeen, Repulse Bay and Stanley, popular with commuters. Furthermore, the mountainous middle of Hong Kong Island is sparsely populated and contains nature reserves such as Aberdeen Country Park.

Kowloon was originally a continuation northwards of the city of Victoria. Hong Kong’s formidable manufacturing sector was formerly concentrated in Kowloon, though this has now declined. Manufacturing has largely been replaced by the commercial activities, especially in Kowloon East, which is rapidly becoming a second CBD for Hong Kong.

A large proportion of Hong Kong is built on reclaimed land, and this is particularly true of Kowloon. The city has a character that is more Chinese than Hong Kong Island. It is one of the areas that have preserved the traditional Chinese way of life, which was destroyed in the PRC by the Cultural Revolution. Kowloon is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Mong Kok district has a density of 130,000 people per square kilometre.

The New Territories cover all the remaining area, that is, nearly 90%, of Hong Kong. They therefore encompass both the often mountainous land to the north of Kowloon and all the outlying islands such as Lantau and Lamma Islands. More than 40% of the New Territories is taken up by country parks. Though tourism is concentrated in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, Hong Kong Disneyland on Lantau Island is now a major attraction. Still scattered around this area are traditional Cantonese and Hakka villages, complete with feng-shui groves and fishponds.

Before the 1960’s, villages and a few small towns was pretty much all there was. After that, the New Territories have become increasingly developed, as the Government attempted to overcome the massive overcrowding around Victoria Harbour by creating a succession of new towns. Now the New Territories are home to more than half of Hong Kong’s population. Most of these people live in new towns.

The Government initially wanted the new towns to be somewhat independent economically. This has proved difficult as there are very few natural resources in the New Territories. Some manufacturing has moved from Kowloon to cities such as Kwun Tung and Tuen Mun, and development is continuing.



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