Backgrounder: Basic facts on China's sovereignty over Huangyan Island

Source:Xinhua Published: 2012-4-24 13:46:27

The Philippines recently sent a warship to harass 12 Chinese fishing vessels which sailed into the waters of Huangyan Island to shelter from bad weather.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said at a regular news conference on Friday that Huangyan Island is an inherent part of Chinese territory. The harassment to the Chinese fishing vessels had infringed China's sovereignty and violated a consensus reached by the two countries to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. China has adequate legal foundation of its sovereignty over Huangyan Island.

Following are some basic facts on China's sovereignty over Huangyan Island:

1. It is China that first discovered Huangyan Island, gave it the name, incorporated it into its territory, and exercised jurisdiction over it.

In 1279, Chinese astronomer Guo Shoujing conducted a survey of the seas around China under the commission from his emperor Kublai Khan, and the Huangyan Island was chosen as the point for surveying the South China Sea. This explains that Huangyan Island was discovered by Chinese at least in Yuan Dynasty(1271-1368).

In January 1935, a map verification committee of then Chinese government, which consisted of representatives from ministries and departments of internal affairs, foreign affairs, education and navy, declared sovereignty over 132 islands, reefs and shoals. Huangyan Island, with the name of Scarborough Shoal, was included as a part of Zhongsha Islands into Chinese territory.

In October 1947, Chinese government announced the new namelist of South China Sea islands, in which Scarborough Shoal was included and renamed to Democratic Reef as a part of Zhongsha Islands. In 1983, China's board on geographic names released a list of geographic names of some South China Sea islands, which decided to use Huangyan Island as the standard name of the island and Democratic Reef as an alternative name.

All the official maps published by Chinese governments of different historical periods marked Huangyan Island as Chinese territory. Huangyan Island has been consistently under administration of China's Guangdong Province first and Hainan Province later. China's sovereignty over Huangyan Island has been declared in all government announcements and statements on South China Sea.

2. China has long been developing and exploiting Huangyan Island.

Huangyan Island and its surrounding waters are traditional fisheries for Chinese fishermen. Since ancient times, Chinese fishermen have been fishing around Huangyan Island. Many scientific expeditions organized by China's State Bureau of Surveying, National Earthquake Bureau and National Bureau of Oceanography have been held in the island and its surrounding waters.

3. Some comments on the Philippines' claim

The composition and scope of the Philippine territory are set by a series of international treaties, none of which involves Huangyan Island or includes the island into the Philippine territorial land.

The Treaty of Paris (1898), The Treaty of Washington (1900) and the Treaty between Great Britain and the United States (1930) state clearly that the west limit of the Philippine territory is 118 degrees east longitude, while Huangyan Island -- with coordinates 15 degrees and 8 minutes to 15 degrees and 14 minutes north latitude, 117 degrees and 44 minutes to 117 degrees and 48 minutes east longitude -- is obviously outside this limit.

The 1935 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, the 1946 Treaty of General Relations between the United States of America and the Republic of the Philippines, the 1952 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, the 1961 Republic Act No.3046 and the 1968 Republic Act No.5446 have reaffirmed the legal effects of the above-mentioned three treaties and once again expressively defined the Philippine territorial limits, the baseline points and baseline of the territorial waters, which had not included Huangyan Island.

The Philippine maps published in 1981 and 1984, just to name a few, also indicated that Huangyan Island is outside the Philippine territorial limits. The above facts fully prove that Huangyan Island is outside the scope of Philippine territory.

Until 1997, the Philippines had never put dispute on China's jurisdiction and development on Huangyan Island, while it repeatedly stated that Huangyan Island was outside the Philippine territory. Then Philippine ambassador to Germany indicated clearly in his letter to a German radio amateur on February 5, 1990 that, Huangyan Island was not within the Philippine territory and sovereignty according to the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority of the Philippines.

The documents issued by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority of the Philippines and the Philippine amateur radio organization to the American Radio Relay League on October 18 and November 18, 1994 had also confirmed respectively that the Philippine territorial limits and sovereignty was stipulated by the Article 3 of the Treaty of Paris (1889) and Huangyan Island is outside of the Philippine territory boundaries.

"The land dominates the sea" is a basic principle of the international law of sea. The United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS) allows coastal states to claim a 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), but coastal states have no rights to undermine the inherent territory and sovereignty of other countries. It is a violation of the principles of international laws, including that of the UNCLOS, to change the ownership of the territorial sovereignty through the UNCLOS.

Posted in: Asia-Pacific

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