World / Asia-Pacific

Jurisdiction of the tribunal questioned

By Shadow Li (China Daily Europe) Updated: 2016-07-15 08:05

Jurisdiction of the tribunal questioned

A construction worker drives along the coastline of Zhubi Reef on July 12. Feng Yongbin / China Daily

A leading Hong Kong law expert questioned on July 13 both the procedures and the jurisdiction of the arbitral tribunal in The Hague in the South China Sea case, which ruled on July 12 in favor of the Philippines.

However, a win-win situation is still likely in which China and the Philippines can resolve the dispute through negotiations, says Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, chairwoman of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre.

The arbitral tribunal, appointed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, announced on July 12 that China has no "historic title" over the South China Sea and no historic basis supporting its claims behind the "nine-dash line" in the waters.

In response, Cheng says a number of international treaties and conventions signed after World War II have all recognized China's sovereignty over the South China Sea.

Jurisdiction of the tribunal questioned

The highly disputed arbitration, unilaterally initiated by the administration of former Philippine president Benigno Aquino III in January 2013, was criticized by maritime law experts and scholars around the world because of the tribunal's lack of justifiable jurisdiction in the case.

Cheng also questions its jurisdiction, saying the main issue of contention in this arbitration was whether the court had the right to rule.

She cites two cases - Nicaragua versus the United States and a maritime dispute between Mauritius and the United Kingdom.

The UK and the US both questioned the court's jurisdiction to rule and simply ignored the rulings.

The US resolved the disputes with Nicaragua through dialogue afterward, as the UK and Mauritius are doing now, says Cheng, a seasoned counsel and arbitrator who has been involved in many international arbitration cases.

When asked whether the South China Sea ruling would affect the court's credibility, Cheng says any ruling made without sufficient legal grounds would certainly affect a court's credibility.

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