May 25, 2016
The China Law Society on Wednesday issued a statement on the South China Sea arbitration initiated by the Philippines. Following is the full text of the statement’s English version:
With regard to the unilateral initiation of the South China Sea arbitration by the Philippines and the arbitrary decision by the Arbitral Tribunal to hear the arbitration case in disregard of basic facts, the principles of fairness and rule of law, the China Law Society (CLS) hereby makes the following statement on behalf of the Chinese legal community.
CLS stands firmly by the consistent position of the Chinese Government of not accepting, participating in, or recognizing the aforementioned case. No matter judging by the purpose, principles and provisions provided for in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), or the basic principles of law generally acknowledged by the international community, or basic historical facts, it would all be illegal and invalid for the Philippines to unilaterally initiate the arbitration and for the Arbitral Tribunal to have pushed forward the relevant proceedings.
The Arbitral Tribunal abused its authority and willfully expanded the scope of its jurisdiction. The arbitration procedure under UNCLOS is not applicable to the relevant disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea. The two sides had agreed to settle the disputes through negotiations and consultations, and therefore excluded any third-party procedure. The Philippines’ submissions do not fall within the interpretation and application of UNCLOS and are in essence related to territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation. Furthermore, the Chinese Government’s declaration in year 2006 on optional exception has explicitly excluded disputes concerning maritime delimitation, historic bays or titles, as well as military and law enforcement activities from the dispute resolution procedures of UNCLOS. The Arbitral Tribunal, however, chose to ignore and turn a blind eye to all this.
In so doing the Arbitral Tribunal has grossly deviated from the basic principles established by UNCLOS, which is to establish maritime legal order on the basis of respecting the sovereignty of the State Parties. It disregarded China’s sovereignty and sovereign rights in the South China Sea, and glossed over the fact that the Philippines had failed to perform its legal obligations to hold bilateral consultation before initiating the arbitration procedure, running counter to the spirit of UNCLOS of settling maritime disputes through understanding and cooperation. The Tribunal also breached the principles of fairness and justice by applying double standards to the positions of the Philippines and China.
China’s long history of development, management and jurisdiction in the South China Sea has long been recognized by neighboring countries, which has gained the status of customary international law. As part of the post-WWII international legal order underpinned by such international legal instruments as the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation, China resumed its exercise of sovereignty and restored its legal rights over the islands and reefs as well as waters of the South China Sea, which has contributed to the maintenance of such legal order in the South China Sea region.
The Arbitral Tribunal intentionally broke the intrinsic connection between the maritime international legal order and the general international legal order, which is a regression of international rule of law. The Arbitral Tribunal’s award completely disregards the general desire among relevant countries in the South China Sea region to settle disputes through dialogue, and the process of peaceful dispute settlement as established by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). It also defies the endeavor that China and relevant countries have made and the consensus they have reached to settle South China Sea disputes. The award, rather than contributing in any way to dispute resolution, will only further complicate the disputes, and damage peace and stability in the South China Sea.
The acts of the Philippines and of the Arbitral Tribunal, in our opinion, have emboldened the attempt in some quarters to create tension in the South China Sea and undercut the trend of peaceful development in this region. The arbitration is a political farce in the name of law. The Chinese legal community gravely deplores this. We call on the international community to recognize the illegal and harmful nature of the arbitration, and urge the relevant countries to come back to the right track of settling disputes through dialogue in accordance with the principles of international law.
The statement was first posted at http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-05/25/c_135387933.htm.