Macau was under jurisdiction of Chinese province Guangdong before the Common Era. In the 16th century Macau became one of the first European settlements in Southeastern Asia, colonized by the Portuguese. Portuguese used Macau as a port for carrying out trading activities with Guangzhou and other regions of China, as well as Japan. Portuguese expanded their territories gradually. In the 17th century they drained maritime domain, as a result, former island of Macau, which was connected to the continent only by a narrow neck of land, developed into a peninsula. After Portuguese sea rule was wrecked in the middle of 17th century, the city lost its trade hegemony. Later, Macau’s significance got reduced due to occupation of Hong Kong by Great Britain and opening of Chinese ports for external trade since 1842. In 1897 Macau became a separate colony of Portugal. During the Second World War Macau was occupied by the Japanese, but after its end Macau was taken over by Portugal again. Pursuant to a Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration signed on 13 April 1987, Macau became the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China on 20 December 1999. Being a part of China, Macau enjoys a high degree autonomy, has its own laws, legislation, monetary, customs and emigration systems and a membership in international organizations. Chinese central government conducts only foreign and defense matters. Macao will keep this status for the next 50 years.