Hong Kong territory profile
The former British colony became a special administrative region of China in 1997, when Britain's 99-year lease of the New Territories, north of Hong Kong island, expired.
Hong Kong is governed under the principle of "one country, two systems", under which China has agreed to give the region a high degree of autonomy and to preserve its economic and social systems for 50 years from the date of the handover.
But Beijing can veto changes to the political system, and pro-democracy forces have been frustrated by what they see as the slow pace of political reform.
Chief executive-elect: Carrie Lam
Outgoing chief executive: Leung Chun-ying
Leung Chun-ying's term as chief executive has been plagued by political battles fuelled by Hong Kong's pro-democracy opposition.
More commonly known as CY Leung, he was elected in 2012 by a 1,200-strong committee packed with members of pro-Beijing elites.
Mr Leung has often been accused by pro-democracy campaigners of putting China's interests above those of the Hong Kong's people.
In 2014, massive pro-democracy rallies led by the umbrella movement saw protesters occupy major parts of the city and caused political upheaval.
The stand-off hit a high when Mr Leung backed China's view that only candidates nominated by committee should stand in direct chief executive elections in March 2017.
Mr Leung, whose term ends in July 2017, did not stand for re-election, citing family reasons.
Hong Kong is home to many of Asia's biggest media players. The territory has one of the world's largest film industries and is a major centre for broadcasting and publishing.
It has kept its editorially-dynamic media, in contrast to the rest of China where official control over broadcasting is pervasive.
Hong Kong internet users enjoy some of the world's highest download speeds. More than 83% of households had broadband access by late 2013.
Some key dates in Hong Kong's history:
1842 - China cedes Hong Kong island to Britain after the First Opium War.
1898 - China leases the New Territories together with 235 islands to Britain for 99 years.
1941-45 - Japan occupies Hong Kong during Second World War.
1970s - Hong Kong is established as an "Asian Tiger" - one of the region's economic powerhouses - with a thriving economy based on high-technology industries.
1997 - Hong Kong is handed back to the Chinese authorities after more than 150 years of British control.
2014 - Pro-democracy demonstrators occupy the city centre for weeks in protest at the Chinese government's decision to limit voters' choices in the 2017 Hong Kong leadership election. More than 100,000 people took to the streets at the height of the Occupy Central protests.