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Special Administrative Region
Image-Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.png
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 特別行政區
Simplified Chinese 特别行政区
Portuguese name
Portuguese Região especial administrativa

A Special Administrative Region (SAR) is a provincial-level administrative division in the People's Republic of China. Each SAR has a governmental chief executive as head of the region and head of government. The People's Republic of China, at present, has two special administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau.[1] They should not be confused with special economic zones, which are regions fully under the administration of the Central People's Government. Article 31 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China authorises the National People's Congress to create special administrative regions.[2]


List of special administrative regions

Administrative divisions
of the People's Republic
of China
This article is part of the
Political divisions of China
Province level
Autonomous regions
Special Administrative
Regions (SARs)
History of its political divisions
Prefecture level
Autonomous prefectures
Prefecture-level cities
Sub-provincial cities
County level
Autonomous counties
County-level cities
Sub-prefecture-level cities
City districts
Autonomous banners
Township level
Townships (ethnic)
Sumu (ethnic)
County districts
Village level
Special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China[3]
Name Chinese (T) Chinese (S) Pinyin Postal map Abb.¹ Population Area² Region ISO Admin. Division
Hong Kong Xiānggǎng Hongkong gǎng 7,008,900 1,104 South Central CN-91 List
Macau Àomén Macau ào 546,200 29.2 South Central CN-92 List

Special situation

The two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau (created in 1997 and 1999 respectively) each have a codified constitution called Basic Law.[1] 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.[1] Both are pragmatic approaches to the fact that each territory was a former colony administered by their respective European powers. Macau and Hong Kong had advanced capitalist economies that would have been disrupted by the transition of sovereignty if there had been no continuity in respect of their legal and economic systems.


High degree of autonomy

Currently, the two SARs of Hong Kong and Macau are responsible for all issues except diplomatic relations and national defence. Consequently, the National People's Congress authorizes the SAR to exercise a high degree of autonomy and enjoy executive, legislative and independent judicial power.[4] HK and Macau are vested with independent judicial power, including final adjudication.[5] They have their own Courts of Final Appeal.[5] According to the Joint Declaration HK SAR enjoys a high degree of autonomy, except in matters of foreign policy and defence.[6]

External affairs

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. In diplomatic talks involving a SAR, the SAR concerned may send officials to be part of the Chinese delegation. In sporting events the SARs are known as "Hong Kong of China" and "Macau of China" and compete as different countries.[7]

A 1996 draft PRC law banned People's Liberation Army-run businesses in HK, but loopholes allow them to operate while the profits are plowed back into the military.[8] There are many PLA-run corporations in Hong Kong. The PLA also have sizable land-holdings in Hong Kong worth billions of dollars.[8]

Defense and military

The People's Liberation Army is garrisoned in both the SARs. PRC authorities have said the PLA will not be allowed to interfere with HK's local affairs, and must abide by its laws.[8] In 1988 scholar Chen Fang of the Academy of Military Science even tried to propose the "One military, two systems" concept to separate the defense function and public functions in the army.[8] The PLA do not participate in the governance of the SAR but the SAR may send for them in times of emergency such as natural disasters. Defense is the responsibility of the Central People's Government.[6]

Immigration and nationality

Each of the SARs issue passports on its own, only to its permanent residents who are concurrently nationals of the PRC, that is, PRC nationals satisfying 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.

Apart from affording the holder consular protection by 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.

Offer to Taiwan and other ROC-controlled areas

The status of a special administrative region was first offered to Taiwan and other areas controlled by the Republic of China in 1981.[1] The 1981 proposal was put forth by Ye Jianying called "Ye nine ordinance" (葉九條).[9] A series of different offers have since appeared. In June 25, 1983 Deng Xiaoping appeared at Seton Hall University in the US to propose the "Deng six ordinance" (鄧六條), which called out for the "Taiwan Special Administrative Region" (台灣特別行政區).[9] After the Taiwan SAR unification, PRC becomes the sole representative of China.[9] Under the rule Taiwan is allowed to manage its own military.[9] According to the proposal, the government of a Taiwan SAR would retain its own administrative and legislative powers, an independent judiciary and the right of adjudication, although it will not be considered a separate government of China.[9] While there will be no interference by the PRC in Taiwan's political system, there may be representatives from the Taiwan SAR that will be appointed to the central government in Beijing by the Taiwan SAR.

In 2005 the Anti-Secession Law of the PRC was enacted. It promises Taiwan a high degree of autonomy, among other things.[10] Under the law, the Taiwanese people would give up their right to self-determination.[11] China can also employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty from Taiwan independence forces.[10]


The Dalai Lama considered the 1951 agreement with China was made in the same spirit as "one country, two systems".[1] He has since proposed that the Tibet Autonomous Region become a special administrative region of the PRC similar to HK or Macau.[12] However, the PRC has continued to reject this proposal, stating that Tibet is not eligible to become a special administrative region because it has always been a part of China.[13][14]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Ghai, Yash P. [2000] (2000). Autonomy and ethnicity: negotiating competing claims in multi-ethnic states. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521786428, 9780521786423. p 92.
  2. ^ Lauterpacht, Elihu. Greenwood, C. J. [1999] (1999). International Law Reports Volume 114 of International Law Reports Set Complete set. Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 0521642442, 9780521642446. p 394.
  3. ^ References and details on data provided in the table can be found within the individual provincial articles.
  4. ^ Chan, Ming K. Clark, David J. [1991] (1991). The Hong Kong Basic Law: blueprint for stability and prosperity under Chinese sovereignty? M.E. Sharpe publishing. ISBN 0873328353,9780873328357. pg 168.
  5. ^ a b Oliveira, Jorge. Cardinal, Paulo. [2009] (2009). One Country, Two Systems, Three Legal Orders - Perspectives of Evolution: Essays on Macau's Autonomy After the Resumption of Sovereignty by China. ISBN 3540685715, 9783540685715. p 212.
  6. ^ a b Zhang Wei-Bei. [2006] (2006). Hong Kong: the pearl made of British mastery and Chinese docile-diligence. Nova Publishers. ISBN 1594546002, 9781594546006.
  7. ^ "" China keeps low key at East Asian Games . Retrieved on 2009-12-13.
  8. ^ a b c d Gurtov, Melvin. Hwang, Byong-Moo Hwang. [1998] (1998). China's security: the new roles of the military. Lynne Rienner Publishing. ISBN 1555874347, 9781555874346. p 203-204.
  9. ^ a b c d e "" 鄧六條. Retrieved on 2009-12-14.
  10. ^ a b United Nations refugee agency. "UNHCR." Anti-Secession Law (No. 34). Retrieved on 2009-12-14.
  11. ^ "" Artists and academics protest `anti-secession' law. Retrieved on 2009-12-13.
  12. ^ "" Deep-rooted Tensions Surface in Tibet Unrest. Retrieved on 2009-12-15.
  13. ^ The 14th Dalai Lama’s ‘Middle Way’ ridiculous
  14. ^ 'Seeking unity through equality' -


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