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HandWiki. Concession (Territory). Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 13 June 2024).
HandWiki. Concession (Territory). Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 13, 2024.
HandWiki. "Concession (Territory)" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 13, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, October 21). Concession (Territory). In Encyclopedia.
HandWiki. "Concession (Territory)." Encyclopedia. Web. 21 October, 2022.
Concession (Territory)

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 signed 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. Some examples of voluntary concessions are the cemeteries (and monuments) administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission containing United States military dead in Belgium, Cuba, France, Gibraltar, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Panama, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom. 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. 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.

sovereignty gibraltar lease

1. Austro-Hungarian Concession Holders

  • One of the concessions in Tianjin (Tientsin), in China (1901–1917). Officially surrendered by Austria in 1919 (Treaty of Saint-Germain) and Hungary in 1920 respectively (Treaty of Trianon).

2. Belgian Concession Holders

  • The Guatemalan parliament issued a decree on 4 May 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.
  • 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 (Tientsin) (1902–1931)

3. British Concession Holders

3.1. Held by The United Kingdom

  • 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 leased territory 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.[1]
  • The British concession on the Shamian Island (Shameen Island) in Guangzhou (Canton).

3.2. Privately Held

  • Tati Concessions Land 1872–1911, in a small part of present Botswana, detached from the Matabele kingdom.

4. Canadian Concessions

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.

5. Chinese Concessions

Between 1882 and 1884, the Qing Empire obtained concessions in Korea at Incheon, Busan and Wonsan. The concessions were occupied by Japan in 1894 after the outbreak of the First Sino-Japanese War. After China's defeat in that war, Korea (now with Japanese support) declared the unequal treaties with Qing China to be void, and unilaterally withdrew the extraterritoriality and other powers granted to China in respect of the concessions. The concessions were formally abolished in 1898.

6. French Concessions

  • 6 April 1849 French concession in Shanghai (since 17 November 1843 a Treaty Port) established; 17 July 1854 Municipal Council established. Relinquished by Vichy France to a Japan-sponsored puppet government in China, formally returned to China by France in 1946.
  • 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)

7. German Concessions

All in China:

  • On 6 March 1898, Qingdao (Tsingtao) was leased "for 99 years" to Germany (Kiautschou Bay concession); it was already occupied by Germany since 14 November 1897. On 23 August 1914, Republic of China canceled the German lease. The concession was occupied by Japan on 7 November 1914.
  • One of the Concessions in Tianjin (Tientsin)
  • One of the concessions in Hankou (Hankow; now a part of Wuhan)

8. Italian Concession

  • A concession zone in Tianjin (Tientsin) was conceded to the Kingdom of Italy by Qing China on 7 September 1901. It was administered by Italy's Consul and had a population of 6,261 in 1935, including 536 foreigners.
  • Several ships of the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina) were based at Tianjin. During World War II, the primary Italian vessels based at Tianjin were the minelayer Lepanto and the gunboat Carlotto.
  • On 10 September 1943, the Italian concession at Tianjin 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, by peace treaty, the zone was formally returned to China by the Republic of Italy.

9. Japanese Concessions

In China:

  • 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

10. 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 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.

11. Russian Concessions

  • 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.
  • Khmeimim Air Base in Syria is leased to the Russian government for a period of 49 years, with the Russian government having extraterritorial jurisdiction over the air base and its personnel.[2][3]

12. 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.
  • 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).
  • The numerous cemeteries and monuments administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission. These are located in Belgium, Cuba, France, Gibraltar, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Panama, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom. The most popular sites among these are the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France and the John F. Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede, United Kingdom .

13. 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 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.

  • Beijing Legation Quarter: a de facto concession.

14. Foreign Concessions in China

  • Concessions in Tianjin
  • Chinese Eastern Railway Zone
  • Guangzhouwan
  • Kiautschou Bay
  • Weihaiwei under British rule
  • Russian Dalian
  • Kwantung Leased Territory
  • Shanghai International Settlement
    • British Concession (Shanghai)
    • Shanghai French Concession


  1.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Tientsin". Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 963. 
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