The special administrative regions (SAR) are one type of provincial-level administrative divisions
of the People's Republic of China
directly under Central People's Government
. As a region, they possess the highest degree of autonomy
in China. Despite the relative autonomy that the Central People's Government affords special administrative regions, the National People's Congress
is still able to unilaterally write laws in secret for special administrative regions that are not read publicly until they are passed.
The legal basis for the establishment of SARs, unlike the other administrative divisions of China
, is provided for by Article 31, rather than Article 30, of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China
of 1982. Article 31 reads: "The state may establish special administrative regions when necessary. The systems to be instituted in special administrative regions shall be prescribed by law enacted by the National People's Congress in the light of the specific conditions".
At present, there are two SARs established according to the Constitution, namely the Hong Kong SAR
and the Macau SAR
, former British and Portuguese dependencies
[Ghai, Yash P. (2000). ''Autonomy and Ethnicity: Negotiating Competing Claims in Multi-Ethnic States''. Cambridge University Press. , 9780521786423. p 92.]
transferred to China in 1997 and 1999, respectively, pursuant to the Sino-British Joint Declaration
of 1984 and the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration
of 1987. Pursuant to their Joint Declarations, which are binding inter-state treaties
registered with the United Nations
, and their Basic law
s, the Chinese SARs "shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy
". Generally, the two SARs are not considered to constitute a part of Mainland China
, by both SAR and mainland Chinese authorities.
The provision to establish special administrative regions appeared in the constitution
in 1982, in anticipation of the talks with the United Kingdom over the question of the sovereignty over Hong Kong. It was envisioned as the model for the eventual reunification
and other islands, where the Republic of China
has resided since 1949.
Under the one country, two systems
principle, the two SARs continue to possess their own government
legislatures, legal system
s, police forces
, monetary systems
, separate customs territory
, immigration policies
, national sports team
s, official language
s, postal systems
, academic and educational systems
, and substantial competence in external relations
that are different or independent from the People's Republic of China. The two SARs also continue to have left-hand traffic
, the opposite of mainland China.
Special administrative regions should not be confused with special economic zones
, which are areas in which special economic laws apply to promote trade
s. The Wolong Special Administrative Region
province is a nature preserve not a political division.
List of special administrative regions of China
There are currently two special administrative regions established according to Article 31 of the Chinese Constitution. For the Wolong Special Administrative Region
in Sichuan Province
, please see the section Wolong
The two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau (created in 1997 and 1999 respectively) each have a codified constitution called Basic Law
The law provides the regions with a high degree of autonomy, a separate political system, and a capitalist
economy under the principle of "one country, two systems
" proposed by Deng Xiaoping
High degree of autonomy
Currently, the two SARs of Hong Kong and Macau are responsible for all affairs except those regarding diplomatic relations and national defence.
[Zhang Wei-Bei. 006(2006). Hong Kong: the pearl made of British mastery and Chinese docile-diligence. Nova Publishers. , 9781594546006.]
Consequently, the National People's Congress
authorises the SAR to exercise a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power, and each with their own Courts of Final Appeal
[Oliveira, Jorge. Cardinal, Paulo. 009(2009). One Country, Two Systems, Three Legal Orders – Perspectives of Evolution: Essays on Macau's Autonomy After the Resumption of Sovereignty by China. , 9783540685715. p 212.]
Special administrative regions are empowered to contract a wide range of agreements with other countries and territories such as mutual abolition of visa requirement
, mutual legal aid, air services, extradition
, handling of double taxation
and others, with no Chinese government
involvement. However, in some diplomatic talks involving a SAR, the SAR concerned may choose to send officials to be part of the Chinese delegation. For example, when former Director of Health of Hong Kong Margaret Chan
became the World Health Organization
(WHO) Director-General, she served as a delegate from the People's Republic of China
to the WHO.
In sporting events the SARs participate under the respective names of "''Hong Kong
, China''" and "''Macau
, China''", and compete as different entities as they had done since they were under foreign rules, but both SARs are usually allowed to omit the term "'', China''" for informal use.
The Government of Hong Kong
has established Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office
s (HKETOs) in few countries as well as Greater China Region
. HKETOs serve as a quasi-interests section
in favour of Hong Kong
. For regions with no HKETOs, Chinese diplomatic missions
take charge of protecting Hong Kong-related interests.
Some countries which have a diplomatic relationship with the central Chinese government
offices in Hong Kong.
Defence and military
The People's Liberation Army
is garrisoned in both SARs. PRC authorities have said the PLA will not be allowed to interfere with the local affairs of Hong Kong and Macau, and must abide by its laws.
In 1988, scholar Chen Fang of the Academy of Military Science
even tried to propose the "One military, two systems" concept to separate the defence function and public functions in the army.
The PLA does not participate in the governance of the SAR but the SAR may request them for civil-military participation, in times of emergency such as natural disaster
s. Defence is the responsibility of the PRC government.
A 1996 draft PRC law banned People's Liberation Army–run businesses
in Hong Kong, but loophole
s allow them to operate while the profits
are ploughed back into the military.
[Gurtov, Melvin. Hwang, Byong-Moo Hwang (1998). ''China's Security: The New Roles of the Military''. Lynne Rienner Publishing. , 9781555874346. pp. 203–204.]
There are many PLA-run corporations in Hong Kong. The PLA also have sizeable land holdings
in Hong Kong worth billions of dollars.
Immigration and nationality
Each of the SARs issues passports on its own to its permanent residents who are concurrently Chinese (PRC) citizens
. PRC citizens must also satisfy one of the following conditions:
* born in the SAR
* born anywhere while either parent was a permanent resident of the SAR
* resided continuously and legally for seven or more years in the SAR and therefore gained a right of abode
in the SAR.
Apart from affording the holder consular protection by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China
, these passports also specify that the holder has right of abode in the issuing SAR.
The National People's Congress
has also put each SAR in charge of administering the PRC's Nationality Law
in its respective realms, namely naturalisation
, renunciation and restoration of PRC nationality and issuance of proof of nationality.
Due to their colonial past, many inhabitants of the SARs hold some form of non-Chinese nationality (e.g. British National (Overseas)
status, British citizenship
, British Overseas citizenship
or Portuguese citizenship
). However, SAR residents who are Chinese descent have always been considered as Chinese citizens by the PRC authorities, an exception to this case is Macau, wherein residents of Chinese descent may choose Chinese or Portuguese nationality. Special interpretation of the Nationality Law, while not recognising dual nationality
, has allowed Chinese citizens to keep their foreign "right of abode" and use travel documents issued by the foreign country. However, such travel documents cannot be used to travel to mainland China
and persons concerned must use Home Return Permit
. Therefore, master nationality rule
applies so the holder may not enjoy consular protection while in mainland China. Chinese citizens who also have foreign citizenship may declare a change of nationality at the Immigration Department of the respective SARs, and upon approval, would no longer be considered Chinese citizens.
SAR permanent residents who are not Chinese citizens (including stateless
persons) are not eligible for SAR passports. Persons who hold a non-Chinese citizenship must obtain passports from foreign diplomatic missions which represents their countries of citizenship. For those who are stateless, each SAR may issue its own form of certificates of identity
, e.g. Document of Identity
, in lieu of national passports to the persons concerned. Chinese citizens who are non-permanent residents of two SARs are also ineligible for SAR passports but may obtain CIs just like stateless persons.
Offer to Taiwan and other ROC-controlled areas
The status of a special administrative region for Taiwan
and other areas controlled by the Republic of China
(ROC) was first proposed in 1981.
The 1981 proposal was put forth by Ye Jianying
called "Ye's nine points" ().
A series of different offers have since appeared. On 25 June 1983 Deng Xiaoping
appeared at Seton Hall University
in the US to propose "Deng's six points" (), which called for a "Taiwan Special Administrative Region" ().
It was envisioned that after Taiwan's unification with the PRC as an SAR, the PRC would become the sole representative of China.
Under this proposal, Taiwan would be guaranteed its own military,
its own administrative and legislative powers, an independent judiciary and the right of adjudication, although it would not be considered a separate government of China.
In 2005 the Anti-Secession Law
of the PRC was enacted. It promises the lands currently ruled by the authorities of Taiwan a high degree of autonomy, among other things.
The PRC can also employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to defend its claims to sovereignty over the ROC's territories in the event of an outright declaration of independence by Taiwan (ROC).
[United Nations refugee agency.]
." ''Anti-Secession Law (No. 34).'' Retrieved on 14 December 2009.
In January 2019, the 40-year anniversary of a statement made by the PRC to Taiwan in 1979, Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping
outlined in a speech how the "one country, two systems" principle would be applied to Taiwan.
Several major points from the speech include:
* Taiwan would be a special administrative region of China, and part of the PRC. The ROC would no longer exist.
* Taiwan's institutions would metamorphose into sub-national bodies.
* Taiwan's social system and economic lifestyle would be respected.
* Taiwan's private property rights, belief systems, and "legitimate rights and interests" would be safeguarded.
* The "Taiwan issue" should not be passed down from generation to generation (i.e. reunification should be done promptly).
* The reunification of Taiwan would lead to the "great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation".
The Wolong Special Administrative Region
() is located in the southwest of Wenchuan County
, Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture
of Sichuan. It was formerly known as Wolong Special Administrative Region of Wenchuan County, Sichuan Province and was founded in March 1983 with approval of the State Council. It was given its current name and placed under Sichuan provincial government with administrative supervision by the provincial department of forestry. Its area supersedes Sichuan Wolong National Nature Reserve
and its administrative office is the same as the Administrative Bureau of the State Forestry Administration for the reserve. It currently has a population of 5343.
Despite its name, the Wolong Special Administrative Region is not an SAR as defined by Article 31 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China
; as a result, it has been proposed the Wenchuan Wolong Special Administrative Region of Sichuan Province change its name, with designations such as special area or township.
In the Republic of China
(ROC) era between 1912 and 1949, the "special administrative regions" () were historically used to designate special areas, most of which were eventually converted into provinces
. All were suspended or abolished after the end of the Chinese Civil War
, with the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the ROC government's retreat
. The regions were:
* Autonomous regions of China
* Constitution of the People's Republic of China
* History of Hong Kong
** British Hong Kong
* History of Macau
** Portuguese Macau
Category:Province-level divisions of China