An abnormal content in Lu Kang’s remarks about Chinese fishery law enforcement activity in the South

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Lu Kang’s remarks about Chinese fishery enforcement activity in the South China Sea is abnormal because the location where Chinese agencies carried out their duties is under sovereignty of Vietnam instead of China’s. It is Chinese coast guard ships that infringe illegally Vietnam’s waters.

Answering a question related to Chinese fishery law enforcement activity in the South China Sea in 2018 at the regular press briefing on 3rd January 2019, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said that it is “normal” when neighboring coastal states have dispute on fishery issue and that Chinese Coast Guard ships drive away and attack Vietnamese vessels many times is also “normal”. Lu Kang made an excuse for the perverse activities by Chinese Coast Guard that it was to implement the “fishery moratorium” to sustaining and developing the fishery industry.

china fishing boats MWYH

At first glance, Lu Kang’s answer seems to be normal, however, on second thought, it turns out to be abnormal because of the followings:

First, there is no title and legal basis for Chinese Coast Guard to operate in Paracel Islands because it is absolutely under Vietnam’s sovereignty and the water adjacent to the archipelago thereby is under Vietnam’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction. This is proven by many historical records.

The Paracel Islands are depicted in reliable maps of Vietnam as well as Western missionaries and navigators. On the contrary, some Chinese and Western maps only described the Chinese territory extending just to the Southern tip of Hainan Island. It is apparent that Vietnam official documents (i.e. 1469 Hong Duc maps, 1686 Toan tap Thien Nam tu chi lo do thu (Route Maps from the Capital to the Four Directions) described Paracel Islands as “the Golden Sand”, Dai Nam nhat thong toan do (The Complete Map of the Unified Dai Nam) of the Nguyen Dynasty…) proved the fact that Paracel Islands was under Vietnam’s sovereignty. Some Western documents (such as the World map by Mercator published in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in 1606, maps drawn by Bartholomeu Lasso in 1590 and 1592-1594, maps drawn by Vanlangren in 1598, An Nam Dai quoc hoa do (Tabula geographica imperii Anamitici - The Map of the An Nam Empire) by Bishop Jean Louis Taberd in 1838; reports by missionaries and navigators from Western countries like Batavia’s diary published between 1631-1636, Pierre Poivre’s diary, Earldom M.d’Estaing’s Note in 1754, Jean Baptiste Chaigneau’s Note of South Vietnam (Dang trong) in 1820, Geography of the Nation of South of Vietnam by Gutzal in 1849…). On the contrary, Chinese historical and geographical documents have never mentioned Paracel Archipelago (such as Jiao zhou yiwu zhi, Nan zhou yiwu zhi under the Eastern Han dynasty, Si yi lucheng under the Tang dynasty, Ling wai da da under the Southern Song dynasty, Yu ditu under the Yuan dynasty, Wubei zhi under the Ming dynasty and Da qing yitong zhi under the Qing dynasty…). It is noticeable that in the maps drawn by Zheng He during his 7 voyages crossing the South China Sea, there was no note about Paracel Islands (or Xisha as China puts it today); historical documents under the Ming dynasty in the 15th century even regarded this archipelago as fishing ground of Champa which belonged to Vietnam at that time.

Then, Vietnam has possessed and exercised its sovereignty over the Paracel Islands in a peaceful, continuous manner and in full conformity with the principles of international law. Meanwhile, China seized and imposed its sovereignty on Paracel Islands by force which is in contrary to international law. In particular, Vietnam had established its sovereignty over the Paracel Islands at least since the 17th century when this archipelago was res nullius and exercised its sovereignty in a peaceful, continuous and clear manner. Vietnam's feudal states controlled effectively over the Paracel Islands and commissioned its Hoang Sa Flotilla to administer it.

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China started to be interested in the Paracel Islands only since the 20th century (around 1990), manifested by the event that 3 ships commanded by Li Zhun intruded Woody Island. After that, China continuously used military force to occupy the entire Paracel Archipelago, violating Article 2 of the United Nations Charter to which China was one of the founding members. To be more specific , China illegally invaded and occupied the eastern part of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago in 1946, then the Amphitrite group in 1956 and group of islands in the Western of the archipelago in 1974.

Second, the annual “fishery moratorium” declared by China from May to August which serves as an excuse for China Coast Guard’s perverse action is in fact, unilateral and not in conformity with international law. The area in which China imposes its ban is not in accordance with any regulations related to maritime area under national jurisdiction provided in the UNCLOS 1982. The Southern most point of the fishing ban area is very far from the limit of the 200-nautical-mile EEZ measured from Chinese baseline or Hainan Island.

The only way to interprete the “fishing moratorium” and the activities undertaken by China Coast Guard in the ban area is that they are to impose China's hegemony in the South China Sea. That China uses the Coast Guard to implement the so-call “fishing patrol” is actually using force to expand its control beyond maritime domain exceeding its national jurisdiction. It is Chinese Coast Guard that illegally penetrated into Vietnam’s waters.