Extraterritoriality


Extraterritoriality
   Extraterritoriality refers to immunity from the jurisdiction of one’s territory of residence, arising in large part from the demands of Europeans resident in non- Christian states. It is usually reserved for the official representatives of states and international organizations, but European powers obtained extraterritorial privileges for their citizens in all the independent states of the “East” in the middle of the nineteenth century. The origins of this form of extraterritoriality can be traced back to the southern Mediterranean, where rulers since the Middle Ages dealt with communities of Western traders by allowing them to govern themselves in the so-called “capitulations.” Rulers in the Far East may likewise have perceived extraterritoriality as a means of dealing with isolated communities of alien coastal traders. But where it formed part of “unequal treaties,” such as those extracted from China in 1842, Japan in 1854, and Siam in 1855, it became a tool in the arsenal of informal imperialism and a humiliating sign that the states forced to grant extraterritorial privileges to foreigners were regarded as inferior and incapable of “civilized” government. Extraterritorial jurisdiction was exercised by foreign consuls and therefore entailed the establishment of consular outposts wherever foreigners were allowed to reside. It was claimed to imply freedom from taxation for Western nationals and businesses and was not always exercised without partiality toward Western defendants. As it applied also to subjects of the European powers’ colonies, groups like citizens of Hong Kong in mainland China or Burmese and Laotians in Siam were effectively beyond the reach of the local administration.
   One of the main political aims of Asia’s modernizing nations was to free themselves of the infringement on sovereignty that extraterritoriality implied. The only way to do so was to establish a Western-style legal system with an independent judiciary and published laws. Japan obtained the renunciation of extraterritoriality in this manner in 1899, and Britain renounced extraterritoriality in Siam in 1909, tough on condition that justice be administered by a Western judge when the defendant was British. Therefore extraterritoriality and the struggle to remove it were a powerful agent of institutional westernization. Germany lost all of her extraterritorial privileges in the Versailles peace settlement of 1919. In China, Britain and the United States held on to extraterritoriality until 1943, when China became their military ally.
   See also <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Gong, Gerrit W. The Standard ofCivilizationin International Society . Oxford: Clarendon, 1984;
    Scully, Eileen P. Bargaining with the State from Afar: American Citizenship in Treaty Port China, 1844-1942 . New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.
   NIELS P. PETERSSON

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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