The following material is loosely based on descriptions of Hong Kong found in the game supplement Blowing Up Hong Kong from Atlas Games. Now, I should point out that Blowing Up Hong Kong specifically states it describes a fantasy Hong Kong, which means that what I am presenting here has already been though a gaming filter once already. But that's okay, as I'm fairly sure the 2039 Hong Kong isn't much like the Hong Kong of the real world circa 2006.
Full Name (circa 2039): Republic of Hong Kong
Name Translation: "fragrant harbor"
Time Zone: Hong Kong Standard Time (GMT +8 hours, no Daylight Savings Time)
Area Code: +852
Emergency Number: 999
Internet Code: .hk
Elevation: 59 feet/18 meters above sea level (average). Highest point Tai Mo Shan at 3,142 feet/958 meters, in the New Territories.
Climate: Semi-tropical. Summer temperatures average between 79° to 91° Fahrenheit (26°-33° Celsius). Winter temperatures average between 57° to 68° Fahrenheit (14°-20° Celsius). Due to global warming and the like, these temperatures are probably higher circa 2039. Humidity is 70% to 85% (or higher) year around. Late summer to early fall is typhoon season, with an average of two a month. August is the wettest month, but one can expect upwards of 16 inches (or more) of rain between May and September. And much like Seattle, rain and/or drizzle can last for days on end in Hong Kong.
Population: Circa 2006 real world; about 7 million people. In 2039 figure the population to be nearly twice that (but then, the land area has increased as well).
Diversity: The majority of people living in Hong Kong are (obviously enough) ethnic Chinese. The rest are a broad mix drawn from across the Pacific Rim and the rest of the world. The majority of the foreigners are Filipinos and Indonesians, with American/Canadian/UNA expatriates, British, and Australians coming in next. The expansion of Japan's business concerns means there is a sizable Japanese population as well.
Official Languages: Cantonese Chinese and English. After the fall of Communist China, Mandarin quickly was pushed aside in favor of Cantonese. Odds are, however, any decent Chinese businessman will speak both. Smart businessmen (and black-market fixers) will add English and Japanese to the mix as well.
Currency: Hong Kong Dollar (HKD). In 2039, two HKD dollars equal one UNA dollar. Three HKA dollars equal one Japanese new yen (a.k.a. nuyen) or one Euro.
Tipping: In the real world circa 2006, it isn't customary to tip. although many restaurants add fixed service charges (around 10%). This hasn't changed much in 2039, even with the influx of UNA immigrants. Also, any place with domestic cyberdroids or replicated humans as wait staff will not accept tips.
Haggling: If visiting your fixer, any smaller, out-of-the-way shop, or a street vendor, haggling over prices is virtually expected. Don't expect this to work in any corporate-run place of business, however.
Identification: All Hong Kong residents are required to carry their government-issued ID cards. These cards are issued when the resident is in their late teens and work much as SIN (System Identification Number) cards found in the UNA, the CSA, and Europe. The card contains pertinent physical, medical, and financial information, as well as place of residence and assorted license numbers. Due to the information contained, cards are usually updated at least once a year, although the flash ROMs in every card allow for virtually instant updates whenever needed. Visitors will need a passport and entry papers, while anyone planning to stay more than three months will be required to get an ID card.
Voltage: 220V, 50 Hz AC
Television/Cable/Internet: In 2039 broadcast TV has been replaced by various forms of cable and satellite TV, most of it "on demand." There are some government channels, but most television is piped in via any number of networks, many of which have offices located in Hong Kong. True media junkies will go straight to satellite and pick up whatever they want from around the world. Much of the same hold true for internet access. Dial-up has been dead for the past 40 years, with high-speed wireless transmitting stations scattered all through downtown Hong Kong. Cybercafes are also common, as are full-immersion virtual reality centers and the like. Naturally, internet gaming cafes are incredibly popular and just about everyone month there's another story about some wirehead plugging in and never bothering to unjack until it's too late. If he's lucky he ends up in the hospital with a severe case dehydration. If not? Well...
Newspapers: No one prints full-sized newspapers anymore (well, almost no one). These days people tend to buy instant printouts (a.k.a. screamsheets) from vending boxes located all around downtown Hong Kong or simply read their news on-line. Popular on-line papers include the Asian Daily News, the Apple Daily, the Asian Wall Street Journal, and the highly popular tabloid iHK. Popular foreign papers include UNA Today, The Sydney Morning Herald, and the Koyodo News.
Sights: If you thought Mega-Tokyo was a city of neon, think again. Hong Kong buildings are covered in neon signage, often to the point of hanging out over the streets. There are also computer-controlled lightshows on the coast-side office buildings, as well as offices that buy their electricity in monthly allotments and never bother to turn anything off (a viable option in the face of fusion-power). Video screens run 24/7, and some of these cover entire building sides. Holographic advertisements are quite popular, and many decorate building tops and the like. Anywhere you don't have signs, you have banners (especially in the back alleys and side streets). The banners are strung across streets, hung over doors, from windows, on bare walls, and even from light posts. Their messages range from religious, to political, to the occasional community statement. And no matter what the media, the lucky colors of red and yellow predominate.
Sounds: Close-packed as it is, one should be surprised as the volume of noise at the street level in Hong Kong. You have automotive engines, horns, brakes, and tires, police and emergency sirens, and near the harbor ship's horns. Street vendors shout out their wares, as do their customers. Many small shops have PA systems hooked up to play music and advertisements. Temple processions will include drums, brass, woodwinds, and firecrackers—lots and lots of firecrackers.
Smells: Since Hong Kong is a port city, its hard to escape the smell of salt water. Near the harbor you get such rich organic smells as rotting seaweed, dead fish, and otherwise unidentifiable decaying organic matter. Further out, on the streets, there's the smell of petrochemical fumes from internal combustion engines, the ozone scent of electric motors, and occasional whiff of natural gas. As there are still open air markets in 2039 Hong Kong, than one can expect the smells of raw meat and blood, dried foodstuffs, and fresh fruits and vegetables (and the occasional live animals). Incense is also a common smell, and burning sticks of it seem to be everywhere. Oh, and once out of downtown and into the more "rural" sections of Hong Kong, one discovers the joys of having a sewage system set right below the roadway—with open grates every 15 to 20 feet. Even worse, the raw sewage doesn't head to a treatment plant, but to huge cisterns to be distributed to rice patties and farming fields.
Hong Kong in 2039 consists of four major districts; Lantau Island, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, the New Territories, and Shenzen (added after the fall of mainland China). These districts are then broken up into smaller administrative districts (there are 18 circa real world 2006). I recommend looking up Hong Kong in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_kong) and checking the districts link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Districts_of_Hong_Kong). See also the maps page for some images of Hong Kong and its districts.
For simplicities sake, the following information should tell you most of what you need to know—Chep Lap Kok Airport (a.k.a. Hong Kong International Airport) is located on Lantau Island, Kowloon is the central business district with a great deal of manufacturing (and one of the biggest shopping centers on the Pacific Rim), and Hong Kong Island is the heart of Hong Kong's finance and government. For the record, Mandarin Towers is in the Wan Chai district on Hong Kong Island. All of this is connected by a highly-advanced, very efficient, and very clean rail system (a.k.a. Hong Kong Mass-Transit Rail, or "the MTR").
The New Territories is basically the suburbs of the harbor, although parts are rather "rural" with large company rice farms and the like. Shenzen is the former Shenzhen Municipality, a "special economic zone" created to complete with the Hong Kong economy. When things went south for the People's Republic of China, Shenzen was absorbed by Hong Kong, initially to act as a buffer between the City-State and the rest of China. Now, it is home to many megacorporate interests, who are allowed massive tax breaks and other economic incentives in return for assisting with keeping the Hong Kong border with what's left of China secure. These days that's less of an issue, as the provinces beyond Shenzen are fairly calm, unlike the Chinese interior.
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