Definitions

Concession (territory)

Concession (territory)

In international law, a concession is a territory within a country that is administered by another entity than the state which holds sovereignty over it. This is usually a colonizing power, or at least mandated by one, as in the case of colonial chartered companies.

Usually, it is conceded, that is, allowed or even surrendered by a weaker state to a stronger power. For example, the politically weak and militarily helpless Qing China in the 19th century was forced to sign several so-called Unequal Treaties (so-called because if they had been standard contracts, contract law would have invalidated them due to duress, undue influence, and lack of consideration) by which it gave, among other rights, territorial concessions to numerous colonial powers, European as well as Japan, creating a whole host of concessions in China in addition to even more numerous treaty ports where China retained territorial control.

However, just as with permanent sales of territory, there are cases when concession has been entered upon voluntarily by a power which could have resisted the demand, believing the arrangement to their mutual interest, or as part of a more complexly balanced deal.

In the many cases where the terms of the contract (be it in the form of a treaty between states) provides for similar terms as an ordinary property lease, notably a term limited in time and usually an indemnity sum, the territory can be called more precisely a lease territory or leased territory. Many of the concessions in China were leased.

The term is not to be confused with 'territorial concession', which applies to any clause in a treaty whereby a power renounces control over any territory, usually in the form of a full and indefinite transfer, often without any indemnity.

Austro-Hungarian concession holders

Belgian concession holders

  • The Guatemalan parliament issued a decree on May 4 1843 by virtue of which the district of Santo Tomas was given "in perpetuity" to the Compagnie belge de colonisation, a private Belgian company under the protection of King Leopold I. Belgian colonizing efforts ceased after a few years, due to the lack of financial means and the harsh climate. (1843)
  • The Lado enclave, in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, leased to the Congo Free State (not a part of Belgium itself, but in a personal union with Belgium under King Leopold II) (1894-1910)
  • Belgian Concession in Tianjin (1902-1929)

British concession holders

Held by the British authorities

  • While Hong Kong was ceded to Britain by the Empire of China in 1841-42, and on 24 October 1860 the Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island were ceded by China at the Treaty of Peking (British annexation 4 February 1861), on 9 June 1898 the New Territories (comprising areas north of Kowloon along with 230 small islands) were leased from China for 99 years as a concession. On 19 December 1984 the UK agreed to restore all of Hong Kong -including the territories ceded in perpetuity- to China on 1 July 1997.
  • On 20 November 1846 a British concession in Shanghai (in China) was established (after the 16 June 1842 - 29 August 1842 British occupation of Shanghai, since 17 November 1843 a Treaty Port); on 27 November 1848 this concession was expanded, but on 21 September 1863 (after the 1862 proposal to make Shanghai an independent "free city" was rejected) an International Settlement in Shanghai was created by union of the American and British concessions (consummated in December 1863).
  • The British concession in Tientsin, in which the trade centered, was situated on the right bank of the river Peiho below the native city, occupying some 200 acres. It was held on a lease in perpetuity granted by the Chinese government to the British Crown, which sublet plots to private owners in the same way as at Hankow. The local management was entrusted to a municipal council organized on lines similar to those at Shanghai.
  • On 1 July 1898, Liukung Island (in Weihaiwei Bay, since 30 January 1895 - 1898 occupied by Japan) and Weihaiwei were leased by Britain from imperial China, until Weihaiwei was returned to China on 1 October 1930; it retained a separate administration until 1938.

Privately held

Chinese concessions

All in Korea:

French concessions

All in China:

German concessions

All in China:

Italian concessions

On 10 September 1943, the Italian concession at Tientsin was occupied by Japan. In 1943, Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini's (however virtually powerless) Italian Social Republic relinquished the concession to the Japanese-sponsored 'Chinese National Government', a Japanese puppet state led by Wang Jingwei; it was never recognized by the Kingdom of Italy, the Republic of China, or most world governments. On 10 February 1947, the zone was formally returned to China by Italy.

Japanese concessions

All in China:

  • Kwantung (Port Arthur, Lüshun), formerly a Russian concession (see below) from imperial China, until 2 January 1905 when occupied by Japan, since 5 September 1905 a Japanese leased territory (Kwantung Territory), Port Arthur was renamed Ryojun, since 12 April 1919 a Civil administration replaced the military one; since 22 August 1945 occupied by the Soviet Union, September 1945 - 11 October 1955 under joint rule by the Soviet Union and (then fellow communist People's Republic of) China, till on 11 October 1955 fully re-incorporated into China.
  • the only non-western one of the Concessions in Tianjin (then known as Tientsin).
  • the only non-western one of the concessions in Hankou (today a part of Wuhan).

Portuguese concession

  • Macau - around 1552-1553, the Portuguese obtained permission to establish a settlement as a reward for defeating pirates and to mediate in trade between China and Japan and between both nations and Europe; it was leased from the empire of China from 1670. The Chinese government assumed sovereignty over Macau on December 20, 1999, ending 329 years of Portuguese colonial rule.

Russian concessions

  • Kwantung (Port Arthur), since 27 December 1897 occupied by imperial Russia, on 27 March 1898 Port Arthur became the Russian leased territory of Kwantung (Kvantunskaya oblast, i.e. imperial province), since 12 August 1903 seat of Russian Viceroyalty of the Far East, until 2 January 1905 when occupied by Japan, since 5 September 1905 Japanese leased territory (Kwantung Territory)
  • one of the Concessions in Tianjin (then known as Tientsin).
  • one of the concessions of Hankou (now part of Wuhan).
  • Hanko (Hangö in Swedish), a peninsula near the Finnish capital Helsinki, was leased for a period of 30 years by the Soviet Union from its northwestern neighbour -and former possession in personal union- Finland for use as as a naval base in the Baltic Sea, near the entry of the Gulf of Finland, under the Moscow Peace Treaty that ended the Winter War on 6 March 1940; during the Continuation War, Soviet troops were forced to evacuate Hanko in early December 1941, and the USSR formally renounced the lease -early given the original term till 1970- in the Paris peace treaty of 1947. -- The role of the Hanko naval base was replaced by Porkkala, another Finnish peninsula, a bit farther east at the Gulf of Finland, in the armistice between Finland and the Soviet Union of 19 September 1944; it was returned to Finland in January 1956. -- In both cases, the Soviets limited themselves to a military command, without any civilian administration.

U.S. concessions

  • Guantanamo Bay - leased from Cuba (which now disputes the lease) under 1903 and 1934 treaties in perpetuity; no civilian administration, only military command; it is presently the last concession territory in the world.

(The U.S. does also have a lease agreement, since 30 December 1966, with the UK for Diego Garcia, another naval base, on an island which is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, but there the British sovereign jurisdiction remains, and London has a permantly posted Commissioner's Representative and Justice of the Peace and Commanders British Forces on Diego Garcia)

Two in imperial China:

  • 1848/54 American concession in Shanghai (since 17 November 1843 a Treaty Port) established, till on 21 September 1863 (after the 1862 Proposal to make Shanghai an independent "free city" was rejected) an International Settlement in Shanghai is created by union of the American and British concessions (consummated December 1863); see below
  • one of the Concessions in Tianjin (then known as Tientsin).

Jointly held concessions

  • 21 September 1863 (after the 1862 Proposal to make Shanghai an independent "free city" was rejected) an International Settlement in Shanghai was created by union of the American and British concessions (consummated December 1863); in 1896 the concession was expanded.

On 7 July 1927 a Chinese city government of Greater Shanghai was formally established. In January/February 1931 the Japanese occupied the Hongkew district, and on 9 November 1937 the Chinese city of Shanghai, but only on 8 December 1941 Japanese troops would occupy the International Settlement (but not the French concession); it was dissolved by Japan in 1942. In February 1943 the settlement is officially abolished by the U.S. and Britain; in September 1945 the last territory is restored to China.

Foreign concessions in China

Sources and references

See also

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