In a bid to nullify the international tribunal’s verdict that struck down its claims over the disputed South China Sea, China’s Supreme Court today issued a regulation reaffirming the country’s jurisdiction over its territorial seas warning foreigners of criminal liability for violations of its sovereignty.
The Supreme People’s Court (SPC) issued a regulation of judicial interpretation to clarify China’s jurisdiction over its territorial seas, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The explanation provides a clear legal basis for China to safeguard maritime order, marine safety and interests, and to exercise integrated management over the country’s jurisdictional seas, it quoted an SPC statement as saying.
The regulation, taking effect today, stated that Chinese citizens or foreigners would be pursued with criminal liability if they were engaged in illegal hunting or fishing, or killing endangered wildlife in China’s jurisdictional seas.
The SPC statement said “judicial power is an important component of national sovereignty. People’s courts will actively exercise jurisdiction over China’s territorial waters, support administrative departments to legally perform maritime management duties, equally protect the legal rights of Chinese and foreign parties involved and safeguard Chinese territorial sovereignty and maritime interests”.
The judicial explanation, based on Chinese law, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and judicial practices, further clarifies China’s maritime jurisdiction.
According to the regulation by the SPC, jurisdictional seas not only include inland waters and territorial seas, but also cover regions including contiguous zones, exclusive economic zones and continental shelves.
The SPC move is seen as an attempt to provide legal cover to China’s maritime claims over almost all of the South China Sea in the backdrop of the July 12 judgement of the tribunal appointed by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) quashing China’s nine-dash-line claim over the SCS.
It also upheld the Philippines’ rights over the area claimed by Manila. China has rejected the verdict delivered in response to the petition which the PCA said is binding.
While Beijing said the tribunal’s verdict was null and void as it is illegally constituted, today’s regulation by the top court was expected to provide a legal cover for Chinese military and coast guard to effectively implement China’s claims over nearly 90 per cent of the SCS and back the rights of its fishermen to continue fishing in the region.
Besides Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan contests China’s claims over the area with counter claims.
The court regulation followed assertions by the Chinese military to protect the country’s maritime rights and interests in the backdrop of increasing tensions over the SCS after the PCA tribunal struck down Beijing’s clams.