A total of 412 Hong Kong Chinese diabetic patients were studied on at least two occasions 8-16 weeks apart. Although 28% were insulin-treated, only 3.6% had insulin-dependent diabetes (IDDM). In the remaining 397 patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes (NIDDM), the mean (s.d.) body mass index (BMI) was 24.4 +/- 3.2 kg/m2 in females and 24.2 +/- 3.2 kg/m2 in males. Obesity was present in 17% of males (BMI > 27 kg/m2) and 40% of females (BMI > 25 kg/m2). Established hypertension was present in 49%. Abnormal albuminuria, defined as a mean urinary albumin/creatinine (UA/Cr) ratio greater than 5.4 mg/mmol based on two random spot urine samples, was present in 47%. On stepwise multiple regression analysis, UA/Cr ratio (R2 = 0.34, F = 65.4, P < 0.001) showed significant associations with systolic blood pressure (standardized regression coefficient beta = 0.40, P < 0.001), plasma creatinine concentration (beta = 0.27, P < 0.001) and glycosylated haemoglobin (beta = 0.20, P < 0.001). While the prevalence of hypertension increased with increasing severity of proteinuria, 40% of normoalbuminuric patients had hypertension. Among patients diagnosed before the age of 35 (n = 67), 52% were insulin-treated although only 10% were insulin-dependent. Among these NIDDM patients of young onset (n = 59), obesity was present in 25% of males and 56% of females. Overall, 18% of these patients had a blood pressure greater than 140/90 mmHg and 27% had abnormal albuminuria. In Hong Kong Chinese, diabetes mellitus is predominantly non-insulin-dependent even in the young. Obesity is more prevalent among females. Abnormal albuminuria is relatively common and is closely associated with hypertension and glycaemic control. In the light of increasing prevalence of diabetes among overseas Chinese, our findings may have important implications in the management of Chinese diabetic patients.