Sino-British Joint Declaration

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altname=Joint Declaration of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the People's Republic of China on the Question of Hong Kong
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The Sino-British Joint Declaration, formally known as the Joint Declaration of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the People's Republic of China on the Question of Hong Kong, was signed by the Prime Ministers of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the United Kingdom (UK) governments on 19 December 1984 in Beijing.

The Declaration entered into force with the exchange of instruments of ratification on 27 May 1985, and was registered by the PRC and UK governments at the United Nations on 12 June 1985. In the Joint Declaration, the PRC Government stated that it had decided to resume the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong (including Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories) with effect from 1 July 1997, and the UK Government declared that it would hand over Hong Kong to the PRC with effect from 1 July, 1997. The PRC Government also declared its basic policies regarding Hong Kong in the document.

In accordance with the "One Country, Two Systems" Principle agreed between the UK and the PRC, the socialist system of PRC would not be practiced in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), and Hong Kong's previous capitalist system and its way of life would remain unchanged for a period of 50 years. The Joint Declaration provides that these basic policies should be stipulated in the Hong Kong Basic Law.


The background of the Sino-British Joint Declaration was the pending expiration of the lease of the New Territories on 1 July 1997. The lease was negotiated between the UK and the Guangxu Emperor of China, and was for a period of 99 years starting from 1898. At the time of the lease signing, Hong Kong Island had already been ceded to the UK in perpetuity under the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 after the First Opium War, and the Kowloon Peninsula had also been ceded to the UK in perpetuity under the Convention of Peking in 1860 after the Second Opium War.


The signing of the Joint Declaration by the Conservative Party government of Margaret Thatcher was a cause of controversy in Britain at the time: some were surprised that the right wing Prime Minister would agree to such an arrangement with the Communist government of China represented by Deng Xiaoping. The Joint Declaration would also have to have been signed by HM Queen Elizabeth II and the President of China.

However, many commentaries pointed out that Britain was in an extremely weak negotiating position. Hong Kong was not militarily defensible and received most of its water and food supply from Guangdong province in mainland China. It was therefore considered economically infeasible to divide Hong Kong, with the UK retaining control for Hong Kong Island and Kowloon while returning the New Territories to the PRC in 1997, if no agreements could be reached by then. As mortgages for property in Hong Kong were typically fifteen years, without reaching an agreement on the future of Hong Kong in the early '80s, it was feared that the property market would collapse, causing a collapse of the general economy in Hong Kong. Constraints in the land lease in the New Terrorities were also pressing problems at that time. In fact, while negotiation concerning the future of Hong Kong had started in the late 1970s, the final timing of the Declaration was related to the land and property factors.


After signing of the declaration, a Sino-British Joint Liaison Group was set up according to the Annex II of the declaration.

See also

* History of Hong Kong
* Joint Declaration on the Question of Macau

External links

* [ Text of the Sino-British Joint Declaration]
* [ Introduction to the Joint Declaration]
* [ Basic Law Drafting History Online] — University of Hong Kong Libraries, Digital Initiatives
* [ Historical Laws of Hong Kong Online] — University of Hong Kong Libraries, Digital Initiatives

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