Manila’s smear at­tempts can’t change his­tor­i­cal records

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

The South China Sea ar­bi­tra­tion case ini­ti­ated by the Philip­pines in 2013 is be­ing watched closely by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as the court’s rul­ing may be an­nounced be­fore the end of June.

What­ever the out­come, the case, which aims to over­rule Bei­jing’s time-hon­ored le­gal in­ter­ests in the South China Sea, rang­ing from nav­i­ga­tion and fish­ing to ad­min­is­tra­tive man­age­ment, is built on shaky le­gal ground.

To be­gin with, the is­sue of ter­ri­to­rial sovereignty is beyond the scope of the UN Con­ven­tion on the Law of the Sea, thus the Per­ma­nent Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion in TheHague has no ju­ris­dic­tion over the case, since in essence it is con­cerned with ter­ri­to­rial sovereignty over sev­eral mar­itime fea­tures in the South China Sea.

Turn­ing a blind eye to the fact that Chi­nese peo­ple first dis­cov­ered, named, and de­vel­oped the reefs and islets in the wa­ters, as well as the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment’s con­sis­tent ju­ris­dic­tion over these is­lands, Manila in­stead bases its claims on writ­ten ev­i­dence taken out of con­text.

For ex­am­ple, it claimed that Xisha Is­lands are the south end of Chi­nese ter­ri­tory, “ac­cord­ing to” an of­fi­cial doc­u­ment is­sued by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment in 1937. But the truth is, this refers to com­ments by some ge­o­graph­i­cal ex­perts that are later re­futed in the doc­u­ment.

The Philip­pine gov­ern­ment keeps ig­nor­ing the abun­dant ev­i­dence against its ar­bi­tra­tion, and claims China nei­ther named any is­lands in the South China Sea be­fore 1947 nor ex­tended its fish­eries to the wa­ters.

Yet, as a pop­u­lar sail­ing guide called Geng Lu Bu records, Chi­nese fish­er­men fished there in the Ming and Qing dy­nas­ties be­tween the 14th and 20th cen­tury, and dozens of is­lands in the South China Sea al­ready had their Chi­nese names. Many of these names, in­clud­ing Subi Reef and Namyit Is­land, have been widely adopted and used by in­ter­na­tional sailors un­til now.

De­spiteManila’s re­peated smear at­tempts, such as con­found­ing Xisha Is­lands andNan­sha Is­lands with some Viet­namese islets, China’s sovereignty in the South China Sea has been ex­plic­itly re­flected in the world maps is­sued by coun­tries such as Ja­pan, France, even Viet­nam, in the af­ter­math ofWorldWar II.

Worse still, the Philip­pines has even gone fur­ther and challenged the one-China prin­ci­ple, which was en­shrined in Bei­jing-Manila diplo­matic re­la­tions, ar­gu­ing that Tai­wan’s pres­ence in the South China Sea af­ter 1949 has noth­ing to do with China’s ter­ri­to­rial in­ter­ests there.

Such dis­tor­tion, which seeks to nul­lify Tai­wan’s rou­tine cruises and civil devel­op­ment in the wa­ters nearNan­sha Is­lands since the 1950s, not only vi­o­lates its diplo­matic com­mit­ment to China but also in­fringes upon the coun­try’s ir­refutable sovereignty in the South China Sea.

But no mat­ter how hardManila tries to in­val­i­date Bei­jing’s le­gal ter­ri­to­rial claims by over­stat­ing the “ev­i­dence” pro­vided by a se­lected fewschol­ars, its ef­forts will only prove fu­tile in the face of his­tory writ­ten by all nav­i­ga­tors who trav­eled across the South China Sea.

The au­thor is a re­searcher at the Na­tional In­sti­tute for South China Sea Stud­ies, Hainan prov­ince.

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