A Special Administrative Region
) is a high autonomous
administrative division of the People's Republic of China
. Each SAR has a gubernatorial chief executive
as head of the region and head of government. Each region's government, however, is not fully independent, in as much as foreign policy
and military defense
are retained as the province of the nation and its central government.
The People's Republic of China, at present, has two Special Administrative Regions, Hong Kong and Macau, and 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 authorizes the National People's Congress to create Special Administrative Regions.
Two Special Administrative Regions Hong Kong
(created in 1997 and 1999 respectively) each have a Basic Law
which provides the region with a high degree of autonomy, a separate political system and a capitalist economy under the principle of "one country, two systems
", which was proposed by Deng Xiaoping
. Both are pragmatic concessions to the fact that each was a formerly treaty territory under long-term leases or cession
, in practice de facto
they were colonies left over from the era of European Imperialism and so were administered under western colonial laws by their respective European powers
during the lease period. When Britain
's long lease-hold neared expiration, fear arose among the local citizens toward Communist Law due to incidents such as Tiananmen Square Massacre
and Cultural Revolution
; consequently locals were reluctant to abandon western laws. After rounds of negotiations, Chinese officials agreed to allow most of the local laws to remain in place after the transfer of the sovereignty of the territories.
High degree of autonomy
Currently, the two SARs of Hong Kong
are responsible for all issues except acts of state like diplomatic relations
and national defence
: consequently, they have their own judiciaries
and courts of final appeal
, their own legislature, immigration
processes. The pre-existing legal systems, namely common law
in Hong Kong and civil law
in Macau, are preserved except consequential to establishment of courts of final appeal.
With listed exceptions, national laws applying in the mainland do not apply in a SAR. These listed exceptions must involve diplomacy, national defence or something beyond the scope of the SAR's autonomy.
Suffrage in the National People's Congress
Like other administrative divisions of the PRC, Hong Kong and Macau are represented in the National People's Congress
, although suffrage is not well-defined and is not open to the general public. However, their representation is not prescribed in the constitution of the PRC, unlike provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and the People's Liberation Army
Before Hong Kong and Macau became Special Administrative Regions of the PRC, they were under colonial rules by Britain and Portugal respectively. They had representation in the National People's Congress of the PRC through Guangdong Province, which shares the borders with Hong Kong and Macau.
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.
The two territories compete separately from mainland China in international sporting events.
Defense and military
The People's Liberation Army
is garrisoned in both the SARs. The garrison and its members must obey all SAR laws as well as national laws applicable to them. They do not participate in the governance of the SAR but the SAR may send for them in times of emergency such as natural disasters. According to the basic laws
, defense is the responsibility of the Central People's Government. There is no law providing for enrollment of Hong Kong and Macau residents in the forces during ordinary times, and no Hong Kong and Macau residents are currently enrolled.
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 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
The People's Republic of China (PRC) has offered Taiwan
a similar status to that of an SAR if Taiwan accepts PRC sovereignty. However, most surveys indicate that only around 10 percent of the electorate in Taiwan support the proposition. The proposed Taiwan SAR give up its de facto independent status while keeping its own armed forces
rather than receiving a garrison
. The promise of a high-degree of autonomy, as afforded to Hong Kong and Macau, among other things, is stated in the Anti-Secession Law of the People's Republic of China
enacted in 2005
. Under the proposal, the Taiwanese would give up their right
, a right that the People's Republic of China does not recognize the Taiwanese people having.
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. 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. The provincial legislature would still be elected legislature, multi-party system would still exist within the legislature, and political and socio-economic systems would remain unchanged.
The Dalai Lama
has proposed that Tibet
become a Special Administrative Region of the PRC, saying that this is more realistic than independence. This has also been suggested by ethnic Tibetan and retired Communist Party official, Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme
. However, the PRC has continued to reject this proposal, as it states that Tibet is not eligible to become a Special Administrative Region as it has always been a part of China.