|Britain’s Overseas Territories and the Commonwealth |
88 Where are Britain’s Overseas Territories?
There are 14 British overseas territories, mostly with considerable self-government, with a legislature and a civil service. Britain has general responsibility for their defence, internal security and foreign relations. British policy is to give independence to those overseas territories that want it, and not to force it on those which do not.
The territories are: Anguilla; Bermuda; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Pitcairn Islands (Ducie, Henderson and Oeno); South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; St Helena; St Helena Dependencies (Ascension and Tristan da Cunha); and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
In July 1997, the 99-year lease which China granted Britain for 92 per cent of Hong Kong under the Second Convention of Peking in 1898 expired. Hong Kong was returned to the People’s Republic of China under the terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984. Under this agreement Hong Kong is able to maintain a high degree of autonomy, including independent finances, for 50 years as a Special Administrative Region of China.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of independent states which originated in the progressive dismantling of the British Empire after 1945. It works to promote such principles as democracy, economic development and international understanding, mainly through intergovernmental consultations and the Commonwealth organisations. There are no legal or constitutional obligations involved in membership.