Hong Kong - People
The major spurt in Hong Kong's population growth was in the latter part of the 1970s, when it swelled from about 4 million to 5 million. This was the result of an influx both from China and from Vietnam following the fall of Saigon in 1975. With little room left and diminishing public resources, the government severely restricted immigration in 1980. By 1990 there were more than 56,000 Vietnamese in Hong Kong; only about 12,000 were considered refugees, awaiting resettlement in a third country. A program of forced repatriation to Vietnam began in 1991.
Ninety-eight percent of Hong Kong's population is Chinese--mostly Cantonese. Former Shanghai businessmen, boat people, fishermen, and New Territories farmers represent other Chinese ethnic groups. Britons make up a narrow majority of the non-Chinese, followed by Indians and Americans. Both the Cantonese dialect of Chinese and English are official languages, with English favored in commerce.
The violent suppression of the democracy movement in Beijing in June 1989 ended the perception that China would exert only minimal authority after Britain transferred sovereignty in 1997. Thousands of educated professionals were emigrating, at a rate of 1,000 a week in 1990, mostly to the United States, Canada, and Australia. In an effort to keep key job holders in place, Britain offered full passports to 50,000 Hong Kong families to provide them legal refuge in 1997 if they need it. China, however, announced it would not recognize the British passports.