Last updated in March 2018
Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, which means that it has no intergovernmental relations with Germany. Hong Kong’s legally guaranteed autonomous status, its major economic role in China and as a hub for the circulation of goods, services and capital in the region, its large foreign currency reserves and its unique position at the interface between the two systems give it a special significance.
This is also reflected in the many contacts that leading representatives of the Hong Kong Government now have with partners abroad. The Government is seeking to diversify its foreign relations, previously oriented towards the UK and North America, thereby underlining the city’s status as an international metropolis and global financial services hub in Asia.
Germany is perceived as a valued dialogue partner. Since the spring of 2009, Hong Kong has had its own mission in Berlin, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO). The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) has a regional office for Europe based in Frankfurt.
There are some 600 German companies, company agencies and regional offices in Hong Kong, which remains an important gateway to the Chinese market for German firms. Hong Kong is used as a base for doing business not only with mainland China but also with Japan, Korea, South-East Asia, India, Australia and New Zealand. Most of the approximately 4000 Germans living in Hong Kong are businesspeople.
Institutionally, German business can rely on the support of the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce, the German Chamber of Commerce Abroad (AHK), a Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI) correspondent, a German National Tourist Board (GNTP) office, several trade fair associations and the German Consulate General.
Germany is Hong Kong’s most important trading partner in the European Union (ahead of the United Kingdom), with bilateral trade worth a total of 8.2 billion euros. Trade consists mainly of re-exports to and from mainland China. According to Federal Statistical Office figures, adjusted to exclude re-exports, German exports to Hong Kong in 2016 totalled 6.64 billion euros. Germany’s main exports are machinery, electrical and electronic goods and food, as well as luxury goods for the Hong Kong market (including cars), which are held in high regard in Hong Kong. In 2016, German imports from Hong Kong remained approximately in line with the previous year’s volume, totalling 1.7 billion euros.
In 2016, Germany was represented at eight international trade fairs in Hong Kong, mainly in the consumer goods sector.
There is a growing demand for German consumer goods and luxury brands in Hong Kong. Germany is also viewed as a competent partner in the environmental sector, and German expertise is sought after in the Special Administrative Region. The application of innovative environmental technologies focuses on air pollution control, waste disposal and energy efficiency in buildings – areas in which there are potential business opportunities for German companies. In the medium term, the Hong Kong Government’s comprehensive infrastructure projects also offer investment opportunities for German firms, particularly in the transport, urban development and cultural sectors. There are also market opportunities in the innovation and technology sectors as well as in certification services and telecommunications.
Business delegations from Germany, some of them headed by high-ranking representatives, regularly visit Hong Kong to explore business opportunities and establish new contacts. In 2016, the number of German tourists and businesspeople visiting Hong Kong increased by 6 percent over the previous year, to 226,594.
Culture and education
There is very keen demand for the German courses organised by the Goethe-Institut, with more than 5000 enrolments annually. For years, interest in such courses has been growing modestly. The Goethe-Institut is constantly seeking to gear its varied multimedia programme work to Hong Kong and the region. In a city with one of the world’s highest population densities, multimedia events play an important role. As part of cooperation with Hong Kong’s evolving cultural scene, Germany’s highly regarded classical cultural offerings as well as contemporary and avant-garde cultural themes are key elements in efforts to provide a nuanced picture of Germany. As a sophisticated urban centre, Hong Kong offers a wide range of opportunities to fulfil this aim.
Other integral elements of Germany’s cultural programme are the German-language film week, entitled Kino (plus the respective year), giving us Kino 2018 (Cinema 2018) this year, as well as Germany’s participation in the annual European Union Film Festival. Another successful series of events is the German Film Forum. Films from Germany are also shown regularly at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. This year, the festival is honouring the major German film-maker Werner Herzog with a large retrospective. Herzog will be in attendance as guest of honour.
The prestigious German Swiss International School (DSIS), which was founded in 1969, has approximately 1300 students spread between its German, English and vocational sections (based on Germany’s dual vocational training system). The DSIS has been certified as an Excellent German School Abroad by a team of inspectors from the German Government and the Länder. In its German section, the DSIS offers the German International Abitur examination (DIAP), the German Realschulabschluss (general education school-leaving certificate after grade 10), the German Hauptschulabschluss (general education school-leaving certificate after grade 9) as well as two vocational business school qualifications. The English section leads to the International Baccalaureate (IB). In higher education, there are over 130 partnerships with German universities. At various higher education fairs – for example at the annual HKTDC Education & Careers Expo – there is evidence of growing interest in studying in Germany.
At the Hong Kong Baptist University, there is a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Information Centre headed by the DAAD’s lector there.
As part of the Hong Kong Baptist University’s Franco-German European Studies Programme, students of the German section spend a year in Germany studying at a university and completing a work experience placement. Since 2003, it has been possible to major in German at the University of Hong Kong, graduating with a BA in German. German is also taught at other universities in Hong Kong, but on a more limited scale. A Hong Kong/Germany Working Holiday Scheme enables young people from Hong Kong and Germany to spend a year in the partner territory learning and gaining work experience. In 2014, it proved possible to increase the annual number of participants on each side to 300.
The German Alumni Association Hong Kong (GAAHK) was founded in 2002. With a current membership of around 250, the organisation seeks to cultivate contacts among former scholarship holders and other students. The GAAHK organises a range of activities, working closely together with the German Consulate General and the DAAD.
Traditionally topping the list of foreign languages taught in Hong Kong is English, which is also one of Hong Kong’s official languages. Other European languages, including French, Spanish and German, are also being increasingly taught in Hong Kong. Standard Chinese (Mandarin) is a compulsory subject at Hong Kong’s state schools.
This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.