Scenes from Hong Kong’s Borders

Hong Kong is a unique microcosm of Chinese & Cantonese culture, hanging onto its sovereignty by a thread as mainland China continues to exert intensifying control of the city-state. Under its “One Country, Two Systems” approach, Hong Kong maintains sovereignty from China until 2047, but its existing status as a Special Administrative Region blurs the lines of the agreement.

This distinction between Hong Kong and mainland makes for an interesting scene at the city’s numerous borders. I have gathered stories and images from the various entry points of the country, and I hope to provide an inside glimpse into daily life, travel, and geopolitics in “Asia’s World City.”

Image for post
Image for post

Welcome to Hong Kong‘s Kai Tak International Airport.

Basically, the approach looked so dangerous it was hard to imagine why the airport was still open. And no, it didn’t always work out as planned… More than 12 accidents occurred, resulting in the death of 270 people.

Image for post
Image for post
China Air Boeing 747, after overrunning the runway
Image for post
Image for post
British Airways 747 landing at Kai Tak, photo owned by Fishstick Monkey: https://fishstickmonkey.tumblr.com/post/54070419464/impossibly-cool-the-now-closed-kai-tak-airport

Chep Lap Kok — Welcome Aboard

Image for post
Image for post
HKG Chek Lap Kok Airport, Public Domain from wikipedia

As you can tell by the image above, the entire airport looks like an oversized barge. It is truly an amazing engineering feat. Those remaining in Hong Kong pass through immigration, while travelers continuing to Mainland China or Macau have the option to skip passport control and go directly to the ferry terminal (toward the bottom right of the above photo). You go through immigration when you arrive at the port in Shenzhen, meaning you are essentially stateless for the hour journey, so ferry employees keep the cabin quite secure.

There are also mainland ferries from Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. The ferry to Macau only takes about an hour, and the immigration process is similar.

Image for post
Image for post
I’m sure even the Ordinary Ferry is a good time :)

The Futian Checkpoint

If you are traveling across the border by MTR Intercity Train, you exit Hong Kong before boarding and enter China at your destination station. Recently, the high speed rail was just opened, allowing travel between Hong Kong and Guangzhou in just over 45 minutes.

Image for post
Image for post
The MTR intercity train, just before leaving Hong Kong

Despite being one of the smallest countries in the world, Hong Kong can be entered and exited in more ways than many larger countries! And if you have a multi-entry Chinese visa, you can travel freely around the entire region with ease. It is no wonder Chinese and Hong Kong citizens regularly take advantage of benefits on the other side of the border, such as cheaper massages and discounted goods in Shenzhen, or global finance in Hong Kong. Despite this, the dynamic between the two governments remains confusing. Although China will proclaim that Hong Kong is their territory, it’s not as apparent when you are required to pass through strict immigration screening to pass between the two. Additionally, the two cultures seem quite different, at least in the sense of government regulation. For example, immediately after passing the border you can now access Google and various social media platforms that you weren’t able to open fifty feet prior. For me, it is fascinating to witness geopolitical issues such as these in person, and I recommend discovering your own scenes from Hong Kong’s borders.

Image for post
Image for post
Hong Kong Star Ferry

Written by

Journalist, entrepreneur and student - Boston College, University of Otago. Buddhist. Expert traveler and consultant for conducting business in Asia.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store