Concession (territory)

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In international law, a concession is a territory within a country that is administered by an entity other 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 by which it gave, among other rights, territorial concessions to numerous colonial powers, European as well as Japan, creating a whole host of territorial 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[edit]

Belgian concession holders[edit]

British concession holders[edit]

Held by the British authorities[edit]

  • The Hong Kong Island was ceded to Britain by the Empire of China in 1841–42 under the Treaty of Nanking. On 24 October 1860, the Kowloon Peninsula and the Stonecutters Island were ceded by China under the Convention of Peking (British annexation took place on 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 under the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory. 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 Tianjin (Tientsin), in which the trade centred, was situated on the right bank of the river Peiho below the native city, occupying some 200 acres (0.81 km2). 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 Hankou (Hankow). The local management was entrusted to a municipal council organized on lines similar to those at Shanghai.
  • On 1 July 1898, Liugong Island (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.
  • The British concession on the Shamian Island (Shameen Island) in Guangzhou (Canton)

Privately held[edit]

Canadian concessions[edit]

Following the First World War the Republic of France granted Canada perpetual use of a portion of land on Vimy Ridge under the understanding that the Canadians were to use the land to establish a battlefield park and memorial. The park, known as the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, contains an impressive monument to the fallen, a museum and extensive recreations of the wartime trench system, preserved underground tunnels and cemeteries.

French concessions[edit]

A boundary marker from the French Concession in Hankou. Presently displayed in the Xinhai Revolution Museum (a.k.a. Wuchang Uprising Memorial), Wuhan
  • Zhanjiang since 27 May 1898 French leased territory (under a French Administrateur, subordinated to Tonkin in French Indochina, now in Vietnam; June 1940 – February 1943 loyal to Free France) as Territoire de Kouang-Tchéou-Wan, until in February 1943 the French concession is relinquished to the Japanese sponsored Chinese National Government by Vichy France (not recognized by the Free French, nor by the Republic of China), February 1943 – September 1945 occupied by Japan; on 28 February 1946 formally returned to China by France.
  • 6 April 1849 French concession in Shanghai (since 17 November 1843 a Treaty Port) established; 17 July 1854 Municipal Council established.
  • Tianjin (Tientsin) (1860-1946)
  • One of the concessions in Hankou (Hankow; 1898-1946; now part of Wuhan)
  • The French concession on the Shamian Island (Shameen Island) in Guangzhou (Canton) (1861-1946)

German concessions[edit]

All in China:

Italian concessions[edit]

Japanese concessions[edit]

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, until on 11 October 1955 fully re-incorporated into China as Dalian (Dairen).
  • the only non-Western concession in Tianjin (Tientsin).
  • the only non-Western concession in Hankou (Hankow; today a part of Wuhan).

In Korea (Chosen), before the Annex of Japan-Korea (1910):

  • Busan
  • Incheon

Portuguese concession[edit]

  • 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 concession turned into a Portuguese colony in mid-19th Century. The Chinese government assumed sovereignty over Macau on 20 December 1999, ending 329 years of Portuguese colonial rule.

Russian concessions[edit]

  • Kwantung (Port Arthur, Lüshun), 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 (Tientsin).
  • one of the concessions of Hankou (Hankow; 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 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 until 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[edit]

  • Guantanamo Bay: leased from Cuba (which now disputes the lease) under 1903 and 1934 treaties in perpetuity; no civilian administration, only military command.
  • Two in imperial China:
    • 1848/54 American concession in Shanghai (since 17 November 1843 a Treaty Port) established, until 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 December 1863).
    • one of the Concessions in Tianjin (Tientsin).

Jointly held concessions[edit]

  • 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 Hongkou District (Hongkew), and on 9 November 1937 the Chinese city of Shanghai, but only on 8 December 1941 would Japanese troops 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[edit]

Main article: Concessions in China

See also[edit]

Sources and references[edit]