Hong Kong, the “pearl of the orient” and the gateway to China, is located at the southeastern tip of China mainland. It became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997. Under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, signed between China and Britain on 19 December, 1984, Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs. Under the “one country, two systems” formula, Hong Kong’s lifestyle was to continue for at least 50 years after 1997, and China’s socialist system and policies would not be practised in the SAR. According to Hong Kong Yearbook 2002, Hong Kong occupies 1102 square kilometres, comprising the Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, New Territories and the Outlying Islands. Since 1887, an additional 66 square kilometres of land has so far been reclaimed. That is more than 81 per cent of the area of the Hong Kong Island and adjacent islands. Hong Kong has a terrain as diverse as hilly to mountainous with steep slopes, and lowlands in the north bordering China. Hong Kong’s natural terrain, dominated by mountains and hills with steep slopes that are populated with high-rise buildings, has always posed challenges for geotechnical engineers. The location of her outstanding deep-water harbour has proved to be strategic for Hong Kong’s vital link on the international supply chain and global logistics. A 1997 estimate shows that arable land in Hong Kong amounts to only 6 per cent of the total land accounting for only 1 per cent permanent crops and permanent pastures each, whilst forests and woodland amount to about 20 per cent of the total land with the remaining constituting largely barren rocks mostly used for development and partly preserved as country parks (CIA World Fact Book, 2000).
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