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Britons never made up more than a small portion of the population in Hong Kong, despite the fact that Hong Kongmarker was under Britishmarker rule for more than 150 years. However, they did leave their mark on institutions, culture and Architecture of Hong Kong. The British population in Hong Kong today consists largely of career expats working in banking, education, real estate, law and consultancy, as well as a large number of British-born Chinese, Chinese émigrés who have returned and colonial citizens who obtained full British citizenship in Hong Kong. However, holders of British National (BN(O)) passports in Hong Kong generally are Britons in some way, because BN(O) is one of the six categories of British nationality, and it is officially and legally guaranteed by the UK, though holders of the passport do not automatically have the right of abode in the UK.

Number of Britons in Hong Kong

Estimating the number of Britons in Hong Kong, as with all Asian cities, can be difficult for a variety of reasons. First, not all immigrants or visitors register with the British Consulate in Hong Kong. Next, the population is largely transitory, working in the city for only a few months or years. Moreover, the British Government granted full citizenship to a significant number of ethnic Chinese people in Hong Kong under the British Nationality Selection Scheme in the 1990s and it is unclear that whether this number should be included when estimating the number of Britons in HK.

The British Immigration Department in Hong Kong estimated that there were nearly 22,000 British citizens living in Hong Kong during the transfer of sovereignty in 1997. However, a large percentage of these are British-born Chinese, emigrés and ethnic Chinese who obtained full British citizenship under the British Nationality Selection Scheme in Hong Kong. Other sources give numbers from 16,000 to 28,000 , which presumably does not include Chinese-Britons.

In any case, there have been noticeably fewer native Britons emigrating to Hong Kong since the handover. The drop can be attributed to several factors. When Hong Kong was a British colony, Britons did not have to go through the same immigration and visa procedures to live and work in Hong Kong, and it was quite common for young working-class Britons to go to Hong Kong to work, particularly during economic downturns in Britain. This advantage ended with the handover, and Britons must now prove they have jobs and that those jobs cannot be filled by local residents . This means blue collar jobs such as retail or construction are largely no longer an option for Britons in Hong Kong. In addition, a large proportion of British government employees left following the handover (although the localisation policy in effect in Hong Kong since 1984 had reduced these to a fraction of its total 184,000 employees).


The first British presence in the area was the British East India Company, which started trading in the area in 1699 and set up a trading post in Cantonmarker in 1711. The British captured Hong Kong Island in 1841 during the First Opium War and were officially ceded the territory in 1842 under the Treaty of Nanking. Britons came in relatively large numbers to work in the colony's administration as well as trading houses and merchant banks, along with other Europeans and Americans. Before Hong Kong’s return to China, many Britons and part-British Eurasians emigrated to United Statesmarker and/or to approximate Commonwealth countries such as Canadamarker, Australia, and New Zealandmarker. This repeated after Hong Kong’s transfer of sovereignty to China, aside from they returned to United Kingdom.


  1. Article "Gender, Households and Identity in British and Singaporean Migration to China"
  2. Article "Hong Kong: Children, Foreign Workers"
  3. What’s next for Hong Kong’s Britons? - -

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