Legal Basis of China's Claim over the Huangyan Island

Author:Ran Guo

Official Announcements of China and the Philippines have clarified their claims over the Huangyan Island, which has compartmentalized its history into three periods. Period I: Before 1946. China had acquired its title by discovery of terra nullius, and consolidated into a full title with the historical consolidation process. The Philippines made no claims in this period; instead its laws... (see full summary)

China 531
VI JEAIL 2 (2013)
Ran Guo
   
    
     
     
    
    
    
    
 
    
The Huangyan Island, Territorial Acquisition, Critical Date, Inter-temporal
International Law
Legal Basis of China
Claim over the
Huangyan Island
Lecturer at East China Normal University, Shanghai, China. B.A. (Henan Normal Univ.), M.A. (Tianjin Foreign
Studies Univ.), Ph.D. (Wuhan Univ.). This research was supported by the following research projects: “The Legal
Dilemma and its Solution of China’s Oil and Gas Exploitation in Nansha” (Project No. 2013BFX003) sponsored
by the Shanghai Planning Office of Philosophy and Social Science and “The Interpretation of Historic Title and its
Function in the Dispute over Nansha” (Project No. CLS, 2012, D231) sponsored by the Chinese Law Society. Much
gratitude is extended to Professor Zewei Yang of Wuhan University for his advice. The author may be contacted
at: / Address: School of Foreign Languages, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China,
532 Ran Guo
1. Introduction
The Huangyan Island
(15°07’N, 117°51›E) lies in the southeast Zhongsha Islands,
Sansha City, Hainan Province, China. It is about 160nm from Macclesfield Bank
and approximately 130 nm from Luzon Island of the Philippines.
As the only island
above sea level during high tide in the Zhongsha Islands, the Island forms a triangle-
shaped chain of reefs, rocks and islets, some of which are 0.5m to 3m above water,
such as South Rock (1.8m) and North Rock (1.5m),
encompassing a 15m deep lagoon
with a total area of 130km². Chinas sovereign jurisdiction over the island had never
been challenged until April 30, 1997, when the Filipino navy drove an international
amateur radio group away from the island and began to claim sovereignty over
the Huangyan Island.
Since then, the Filipino navy has repeatedly detained and
even sunk Chinese fishing boats, arrested Chinese fishermen, and carried out so-
called law enforcement activities on the Island. Meanwhile, the Philippine baseline
law in 2009
and initiation of the arbitral proceedings against China in 2013 have
consistently escalated tension with China.
The primary purpose of this research is to prove Chinas sovereign jurisdiction
over the Huangyan Island from an international legal perspective. This article
is composed of four parts including Introduction and Conclusion. Part two will
compare their claims and narrow down the dispute. Part three will probe into
their official claims through both the history of the Huangyan Island and the
corresponding factual or evidences made by each party under international law
and ICJ judgment. This is all investigated to reach a legally sound conclusion of the
ownership of the Huangyan Island.
1 The Huangyan Island (simplified Chinese:; traditional Chinese: 黃岩島; pinyin: Huángyán Dǎo) is also known
as Scarborough Shoal or Scarborough Reef in English, Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal (Kulumpol ng Panatag in
Filipino) by the Philippines.
2 Jinming Li, On the Sovereignty Ownership of Scarborough Reef on the Basis of History and International Law of the
Sea, 4 Chinas Borderland history and GeoGraphy studies 71-77 (2001).
3 See Introduction to the Huangyan Island, China Unanhai (available only in Chinese), available at http://www. (last visited on Sept. 2, 2013); Zhenhua han, a ColleCtion of
historiCal doCuments on Chinas south China sea 703 (1988).
4 Supra note 2.
5 The Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approved Republic Act No. 9522 to define the archipelagic
baselines of the Philippines on Mar. 10, 2009.
6 The Philippines initiated the arbitral proceedings to acquire its sovereign rights and jurisdiction over part of the South
China Sea, including the waters adjacent to the Huangyan Island, on Jan. 22, 2013, despite China’s reservation to the
dispute settlement procedures.

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