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Chinese experts refute Philippine arbitration


05-08-2016 10:30 BJT

The Chinese Society of International Law has held its annual meeting in Changchun in northeast China's Jilin Province. At the top of the agenda -- the analysis and evaluation of a South China Sea arbitration case that was unilaterally filed by the Philippines. All of the legal experts in attendance agreed -- China should abstain from participating in the case because the arbitration panel has no jurisdiction over the dispute.  

One voice from more than 300 legal experts. All meeting participants questioned and refuted the unilateral initiation of the South China Sea arbitration by the Philippines in April.

They believed China has legitimate rights under international law to reject the arbitration.

"That is because the tribunal that arbitrates maritime disputes under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, has no jurisdiction over Manila's claims. And the country's unilateral initiation of the arbitration broke the agreement with us that the disputes should be resolved through bilateral negotiations," said professor Ma Chenyuan, China University of Political Science & Law.

In October 2015, the Arbitral Tribunal rendered its award on jurisdiction and admissibility. The tribunal concluded that it has jurisdiction over the matters raised in seven of the Philippines' claims. But all experts disagreed.

"The essence of the case is sovereignty and delimitation. The case is not simply a legal dispute, but involves political factors. China has excluded the application of compulsory disputes settlement procedures on sovereignty issues. So the arbitration initiated by the Philippines is unable to solve the dispute," professor Ma said.

China has issued a statement saying the award has no binding effect on the country. It will neither participate in, nor accept the arbitration.

"It is not the case that China does not want to resolve the issue. We want to resolve the territorial disputes through negotiations, as we have stated clearly in our agreements with the Philippines and the Declaration of Conduct with ASEAN. The unilateral arbitration case has been illegal in the first place," said Ouyang Yujing, Director General of Foreign Ministry's Dept of Boundary & Ocean Affairs.

China has recently reached a consensus with Brunei, Cambodia, and Laos on the South China Sea issue. The four countries have agreed to oppose any attempt to unilaterally impose an agenda on other countries. Experts say that sets an example for the Philippines on how territorial and maritime disputes can be resolved through one-on-one consultation and negotiations, to maintain peace and stability in the region.

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