I received this email from LinkedIn this week. LinkedIn is changing how they display the location “Hong Kong” to “Hong Kong SAR”.
“SAR” stands for “Special Administrative Region”. It does not reflect the name of the territory associated with Hong Kong Island known as “Hong Kong”. “SAR” is a classification, identifying Hong Kong similar to how Puerto Rico and Guam fall under the governance of the United States as “unincorporated territories of the United States”.
From an English usage perspective, this is strange. On LinkedIn, a location in California does not display as “California State” nor does Puerto Rico display as “Puerto Rico UTOS”.
This is part of a growing trend of using additional and eccentric wording to describe places somehow associated with China. For example, many companies, especially airlines, are displaying Taiwan as “Taiwan (Province of China)” or similar, even though those companies do not list California as “California (State of USA)”.
Listing Hong Kong as “Hong Kong SAR” is not the result of an English-speaking focus group suggesting to LinkedIn the best way for users to know where a person or company is located. This wording is not for the sake of English clarity nor based on any existing theory of how to improve “user experience”; it reflects pressure from Beijing. The purpose is to convince the world that China owns these places, forcing the non-Chinese world to use English the way Mandarin-speakers in Beijing unilaterally determine. And, like so many companies, LinkedIn has no problem with that.