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Republic of Shawan
Sàawàan Gùngwogwók

Flag of Shawan
Coat of arms
Anthem: 《愛國歌》
"Oi Gwok Goh"
("Patriotic Song")
StatusLimited recognition
CapitalCentral Hoi Chuen
Largest largest districtWest Hoi Chuen
Official languagesStandard Cantonese
Official scriptsTraditional Chinese
Ethnic groups95% Han Chinese
∟ 70% Cantonese
∟ 20% Hakka
3.1% British
2.4% others
GovernmentUnitary dominant-party parliamentary republic
Sun Yam-kuen
Ng Sui-lung
Lam On-sang
Leung Lai-lin
Independence from United Kingdom
1 August 2017
• Total
4 km2 (1.5 sq mi)
• 2017 estimate
CurrencyShawan dollar ($) (SWD) (SWD)
Time zoneUTC-8
Date formatdd-mm-yyyy
Drives on theleft
Calling code+64
Internet TLD.sw

Shawan (Traditional Chinese: 沙灣; Cantonese Yale: Sàawàan), officially the Republic of Shawan (Traditional Chinese: 沙灣共和國; Cantonese Yale: Sàawàan Gùngwogwók) and formerly known as Ducie Island, is an island country in the southern Pacific Ocean. Its nearest neighbour is the Pitcairn Islands, 535 kilometres (332 mi) east. Shawan is the smallest state in the South Pacific and is one of the smallest state by area in the world, behind only Vatican City.

The island is a 4 km² atoll consisting four major islands, including the lagoon. Despite its sparse vegetation, the atoll is known as the breeding ground of a number of bird species. More than 90% of the world population of Murphy's petrel nests in Shawan, while pairs of red-tailed tropicbirds and fairy terns make around 1% of the world population for each species.

Settled by people from China and Great Britain, the island became a self-proclaimed sovereign state in 2017. Sun Yam-kuen became the country's first President, with Ng Sui-lung as Prime Minister. Before the Republic of Shawan was proclaimed, it was under British sovereignty; as part of the Pitcairn Islands. In 1867 it was claimed by the United States under the Guano Islands Act, but the United Kingdom annexed it on 19 December 1902. Since independence, its greening policy has covered the densely populated land with flora, parks and gardens.

The Republic of Shawan is a unitary dominant-party parliamentary republic, with a Westminster system of unicameral Parliament, while executive political power is exercised by the Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister, who is currently Ng Sui-lung. The Shawanese National Party has won every election and had dominated the Parliament since the declaration of independence in 2017. The country is a member-state of the Asia-Pacific Micronational Economic Cooperation and the British Commonwealth of Micronations. The country ranks high on its national social policies, on the inter-micronational version of the Human Development Index. Although population is low, the country has one of the medium per capita incomes, with low taxes.


There are various names for the island of Shawan in use today, derived from explorers or rulers by each particular period.

Shawan was first discovered in 1606 by Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, who named it Luna Puesta, and rediscovered in 1790 by Edward Edwards, who named it Ducie in honour of Francis Reynolds-Moreton, 3rd Baron Ducie. Chinese explorer Ma Chuen-yan, who named the island Shawan (沙灣, Sàawàan, lit. "Sandy Bay"), rediscovered the island in 2005. Twelve years later after the latest rediscovery, the Republic of Shawan was proclaimed.

The official name of the state is the "Republic of Shawan" (Traditional Chinese: 沙灣共和國; Cantonese Yale: Sàawàan Gùngwogwók); it has also been known under various names throughout its existence.



The island was discovered by a Spanish expedition led by Portuguese sailor Pedro Fernandes de Queirós on 26 January 1606, during an expedition that began in Callao, Peru. Supported by Pope Clement VIII and Philip III of Spain, Queirós was given the command of the San Pedro, San Pablo and Zabra. The fleet was nicknamed Los Tres Reyes Magos ("The Three Wise Men"). The objective of the expedition was to take soldiers, friars and provisions to establish a colony in the Santa Cruz Islands. The objective of the expedition was to take soldiers, friars and provisions to establish a colony in the Santa Cruz Islands.

Shawan was the first of eighteen discoveries on the trip. Queirós named the island Luna Puesta (roughly, "moon that has set"). On the same day, he also sighted two more islands, one that he named San Juan Bautista ("St John the Baptist"), and the other La Encarnación ("the Incarnation"). It is unclear which one was Henderson island and which one Pitcairn. The confusion was later compounded when a chart produced by Admiral José de Espinosa marked Ducie as La Encarnación, rather than as Luna Puesta.

The crew of the whaleship Essex, which a whale had attacked and sunk in November 1820, mistakenly believed that they had reached Ducie after a month at sea in two whaleboats. In fact they had reached Henderson Island. Captain Thomas Raine of Surrey, who was searching for the survivors of Essex, in 1820 made the first recorded landing on Shawan. Frederick William Beechey, who arrived in HMS Blossom during November 1825, wrote the first comprehensive description of the island. Beechey's expedition did not land in the atoll, but members of the crew sailed around it in small boats. Based on Beechey's survey, the first Admiralty chart of the island was published in 1826. For nearly a hundred years it was the only available map of the island.

On 5 June 1881 the mail ship Acadia ran aground on the island while returning from San Francisco, Peru after unloading its cargo. On the way to Queenstown or Falmouth for new orders, Master Stephen George calculated a route passing 15 to 20 miles (24 to 32 km) to the east of Shawan. George left the first mate in command at 6 am. Half an hour later, the first mate saw a white line, which he disregarded on the assumption that it was phosphorescence in the water. Later, realising that it was land, he manoeuvred to avoid running aground, but failed. The look-out excused himself by saying that he thought that the white land was a cloud. The crew made several unsuccessful attempts to re-float the ship, after which the master sailed one of the ship's boats to Pitcairn Island. He was assisted there by the local inhabitants and returned aboard the Edward O'Brien, an American boat, to rescue the rest of the crew. The incident was later investigated in a court in Liverpool, where the ultimate cause of the wreck was left undetermined, though possible causes included a calculation error by the master or an unknown current that carried the ship to the island. The court declared the master not guilty of any wrongdoing. A stone marker with a memorial inscription is located at the landing point on Acadia Islet. It was unveiled to commemorate the recovery of the anchor in 1990. The wreck lies offshore from the memorial stone in about 10 metres of water.

British Colony

Stamp with landscape of Shawan; then known as Ducie Island as part of the British Colony of the Pitcairn Islands.

Although Captain Edward Edwards discovered the atoll in 1791, Shawan was not considered a British possession. In 1867 Shawan was claimed by the United States under the Guano Islands Act, which established that an uninhabited territory with guano deposits could be claimed as a US possession, so long as it was unclaimed by any other country. Despite claims on several other territories, based on various documents such as the Guano Islands Act, neither the United States nor the United Kingdom recognised the sovereignty claimed by each other. Neither of the two considered that the mere discovery of an island was sufficient to claim sovereignty over it, and often a formal act of possession was considered the proper procedure to claim rights over a territory. Ultimately, the United States did not assert its sovereignty over most of its claimed territories.

Under the 1893 Pacific Order in Council, Pitcairn Island was governed by the High Commissioner of the British Western Pacific Territories in Fiji. On 19 December 1902, commissioned by R. T. Simmons, the British Consul in Tahiti, Captain G. F. Jones and a group of Pitcairners visited the nearby islands and annexed them to the United Kingdom. In 1903 Shawan was annexed by the same procedure and placed under the authority of the Western Pacific High Commissioner. R. T. Simmons stated in a dispatch to the Foreign Office that James Russell McCoy had assured him that the islands had always been considered as dependencies of Pitcairn, and that he and other Pitcairners had frequently visited them in the past. This claim is contested by Donald McLoughlin on grounds of the distance between Pitcairn Island and Shawan and the lack of a suitable boat to navigate the distance between the two, casting doubt on whether they had ever visited Shawan.

On 4 August 1937 Captain J. W. Rivers-Carnac, commander of HMS Leander, reaffirmed British sovereignty over Shawan by hoisting the Union Flag and placing boards proclaiming the island to be the property of King George VI. Shawan was one of several islands thought valuable for potential seaplane bases, though they did not materialise. In 1953 the Pacific Order in Council ceased to have effect and the British Governor of Fiji was appointed Governor of the Pitcairn Islands, which became a separate British colony.

Arrival of the Chinese

Map of Shawan from Wubei Zhi

Chinese travellers Ma Chuen-yan and his companions, including first prime minister Ng Sui-lung, discovered the island in 2005, during their visit to the Pitcairn Islands. Ma Chuen-yan named the island Shawan (沙灣, Sàawàan), meaning "Sandy Bay". The island was soon recognised as a natural choice for a new port settlement for overseas Chinese. Ng Sui-lung proposed to start a new country on the island. The overseas Chinese moved forward to separate Shawan from British control and to create a Chinese sovereign state. To create an air of legitimacy, Sun Yam-kuen, was invited to come with his followers and act as the head of state for the new country. On 1 August 2017 the island-state was proclaimed and Central Hoi Chuen became the de facto capital of the new entity.

Republic of Shawan

A symbol of Shawan, the Goddess of Democracy was adopted in 2017

Shawan gained independence as the Republic of Shawan (joining the British Commonwealth of Micronations) on 1 August 2017 with Ng Sui-lung as the prime minister and Sun Yam-kuen as the president.

The National Party rule is termed authoritarian by some activists and opposition politicians who see the strict regulation of political and media activities by the government as an infringement on political rights. In response, the government of Shawan underwent several significant changes. Non-Constituency Members of Parliament were introduced to allow up to three losing candidates from opposition parties to be appointed as MPs. The opposition parties have complained that the NCMPs system has made it difficult for them to gain a foothold in parliamentary elections in Shawan, and the plurality voting system tends to exclude minority parties.


Islets of Shawan viewed above

A beach on Hoi Chuen Island

Shawan lies 290 miles (470 km) east from its neighbour, Pitcairn Island, and is claimed by some to be the southernmost atoll in the world at 24 degrees south latitude. However, Middleton Reef is at 29 degrees south latitude, so the assertion on behalf of Shawan is doubtful. Shawan's land area is 170 acres (1 km2) and its maximum elevation, occurring on Sai Hoi islet, is 15 feet (4.6 m).

Shawan is located 620 miles (1,000 km) west of the edge of the Easter Plate. It was formed approximately 8 million years ago, after Oeno Island was formed by a hotspot that later caused a magma leak generated in the Oeno lineation. The leak spread over fracture zone FZ2, which was formed by the third movement of the Pacific Plate.

The atoll consists of four islets: Hoi Chuen, Nam Mon, Sai Hoi and Ouloon. The last three of these can be accessed on foot from Hoi Chuen at low tide.

  • Hoi Chuen Islet, along the atoll's north and east rim, is larger than the other three islets combined, measuring 140 acres (57 ha). Very long and thin, the islet is largely forested and is composed of ridges of coral rubble.
  • Nam Mon Islet, in the south, is the second largest. It is composed of sand and coral rubble that borders the lagoon.
  • Ouloon Islet lies immediately to the east of Nam Mon Islet and has the same characteristics.
  • Sai Hoi Islet, west of Nam Mon Islet, is the smallest. It appears sandy from a distance, but the soil is composed of coral rubble and dead shells. Its highest point rises 15 feet (4.6 m) above average sea level.

The atoll has a central lagoon, accessible by boat only by way of a channel 100 yards (91 m) wide located in the southwest, between Nam Mon and Sai Hoi Islets. It has a maximum depth of 52 feet (16 m) and its bottom consists of sand and coral. Whirlpools in the lagoon are common, caused by caves that drain the water from the lagoon into the ocean.


Shawan is located just south of the Tropic of Capricorn and enjoys year-round warm weather, with wet summers and drier winters. The rainy season is from November through to March; summer is from April to October, when temperatures average 25 to 35 °C (77 to 95 °F) and humidity averages can exceed 95%. Temperatures in the winter range from 17 to 25 °C (63 to 77 °F).



Sun Yam-kuen.jpg Ng Sui-lung.jpg
Sun Yam-kuen
Ng Sui-lung
Prime Minister

Shawan is a republic with a dominant-party system and a unicameral parliamentary system based on the Westminster System. The head of state of Shawan is the President, currently Sun Yam-kuen. The head of government is the Prime Minister, currently Ng Sui-lung. The President is elected by an Electoral college consisting of the full membership of Parliament.

The Prime Minister is elected from the results of a general election which takes place every five years. The President is required to appoint the leader of the party who in his opinion has the most support of the members of parliament to this post. The Prime Minister chooses a cabinet and its members are formally appointed by the President to form the government. By convention, the President respects the Prime Minister's decisions of government. The cabinet is traditionally drawn from members of the Prime Minister's party or coalition and mostly from the Parliament, the cabinet being responsible to.

The Parliament of Shawan is unicameral and consist of 15 elected, non-constituency and nominated members, who are elected by popular vote every four years unless earlier dissolved by a majority vote of a three-quarters quorum or by a directive from the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. Elected MPs are voted into the Parliament on a "first-past-the-post" (plurality) basis and represent either single-member or group representation constituencies. The Shawanese National Party has won control of Parliament with large majorities in every election since independence was secured in 2017.

The legal system of Shawan is based on English common law, but with substantial local differences. Trial by jury was abolished so that judicial decisions would rest entirely in the hands of appointed judges. Shawan has penalties that include judicial corporal punishment in the form of caning, which may be imposed for such offences as rape, rioting, vandalism, and certain immigration offences. There is a mandatory life imprisonment for murder, as well as for certain aggravated drug-trafficking and firearms offences.

Shawan's unique combination of a strong almost authoritarian government with an emphasis on meritocracy and good governance is known as the "Shawan model", and is regarded as a key factor behind Shawan's political stability, economic growth, and harmonious social order. Shawan is ranked among the top countries surveyed with regard to "order and security", "absence of corruption", and "effective criminal justice". However, the city-state received a much lower ranking for "freedom of speech" and "freedom of assembly".

Foreign relations

The Republic of Shawan is recognised outside the intermicronational law as an self-proclaimed unrecognised territory. The country's foreign policy is aimed at maintaining security on the island. An underlying principle is political and economic stability in the region. It has diplomatic relations with other micronations.

As one of the member-states of APMEC, it is a strong supporter of the APMEC Free Trade Area and the APMEC Investment Area. Shawan is also a member of the British Commonwealth of Micronations.

Countries with diplomatic relations with Shawan


Armed Forces

There are two police wings: the Shawan Police Force (SPF) and the paramilitary wing, the Shawan Mobile Force (SMF). Altogether there were police officers organised into two main police commands: one in Hoi Chuen Island and one in Nam Mon Islet. In addition to the two command stations there were two secondary police stations and four police posts. There is no purely military expenditure.

Administrative divisions

Shawan is divided into six administrative districts which are grouped into six electoral constituencies and are further divided into various settlements.

Map Name Traditional Chinese Cantonese Yale
Shawan-districts.png Capital
Central Hoi Chuen 中環海邨區 Zùngwaan Hōi Cyūn Àu
West Hoi Chuen 西海邨區 Sài Hōi Cyūn Àu
East Hoi Chuen 東海邨區 Dùng Hōi Cyūn Àu
Sai Hoi 西海區 Sài Hōi Àu
Nam Mon 南門區 Naam Mun Àu
Ouloon 澳龍區 Jùklung Àu


A modern Junk in Shawan

The Shawanese economy peaked in the late 2010s, as it was dependent almost entirely on the phosphate deposits that originate from the droppings of sea birds. The country is ranked as a highly developed micronation, and more than 45% of its labour force is engaged in subsistence and fishing. Most manufactured goods are imported.

The treasury, led by the Finance Minister, is responsible for developing and executing the government's public finance policy and economic policy. The Bank of Shawan (BOS) is the country's central bank and is responsible for issuing notes and coins in the nation's currency, the Shawan dollar. Shawan is a member of Inter-Micronational Tigers (IMT), but has surpassed its peers in terms of GDP per capita. In recent years, the country has been identified as an increasingly popular tax haven due to the low tax rate on personal income and tax exemptions on foreign-based income and capital gains.


Ethnic groups

The Shawanese government reports that over 95% of the population is Han Chinese, of which the majority includes descendants of early Han Chinese who arrived in Shawan in large numbers starting in the 21st century. Alternatively, the ethnic groups of Shawan may be roughly divided among the Cantonese (70%), the Hakka (20%), and the European race; the Britons (3.1%).

The Cantonese people are the largest Han subgroup (70% of the total population), whose ancestors came from Guangdong region across the Pacific Ocean starting in the 21st century. The Hakka comprise about 20% of the total population, and descend from Han migrants to Guangdong, its surrounding areas, Hong Kong, Taiwan and to further extent to Shawan.