Jurisprudential Evidence To Support China's Sovereignty over the Nansha Islands
2004/04/08

China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and it has ample jurisprudential evidence to support this.

A. Full and accurate historical data, both Chinese and foreign, has provided rich and substantial evidence to show that the Chinese people were the first to discover and name the Nansha Islands. As early as in the Han Dynasty that was more than two thousand years ago, the Chinese people discovered the Nansha Islands through their navigational experience and in the course of their productive activities over the years. All this was amply recorded in the books such as Records of Rarities by Yang Fu of the Eastern Han Dynasty, Records of Rarities in Southern Boundary by Wan Zhen of the Three Kingdoms Period and A History of Phnom by General Kang Tai of the East Wu State. All these historical records represent the Chinese people's cognition and appreciation of the land on which they lived and worked. They are of great importance in the perspective of international law. In view of the development of international law, these records and accounts of the discovery by the ancient Chinese people of the islands on the South China Sea bear abundant evidence to China's indisputable territorial sovereignty over the Nansha Islands. Obviously, the Nansha Islands are not land without owners, but rather they are an inalienable part of Chinese territory. No country in the world has the right to change China's legal status as the owner of the Nansha Islands in any way.

B. The fact that the Chinese people have developed the Nansha Islands and carried out productive activities there and that the Chinese Government has actually exercised jurisdiction over these islands has reinforced China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands. After discovering the Nansha Islands, the Chinese people started to develop and engage in fishing, planting and other productive activities on the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters from the Tang and Song Dynasties at the latest. Fei Yuan of the Jin Dynasty (265-420 A.D.) wrote about the fishing and collecting of coral samples by the fishermen of China on the South China Sea in his article Chronicles of Guangzhou. After the Ming and Qing Dynasties, fishermen from Wenchang County and Qionghai County of Hainan Island used to sail southward with the northeasterly monsoon to the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters for fishing every winter and come back to Hainan with the southwesterly monsoon before the typhoon season started. The Chinese people lived and engaged in fishing, planting and other productive activities on the Nansha Islands individually at first, but they were later on organized with the approval and support of the Chinese Government. Even when the conditions on the Nansha Islands were not suitable for people to live, some of the Chinese fishermen still lived on the islands for years. For ages, Chinese fishermen would come and go between Hainan Island and Guangdong Province on the one hand and the Nansha Islands on the other for productive activities and they never failed to pay their taxes and fees to the Chinese Government.

C. The exercise of jurisdiction by the Chinese Government over the Nansha Islands is also manifested in a series of continued effective government behavior. After Emperor Zhenyuan of the Tang Dynasty (785-805AD) came to the throne, China included the Nansha Islands into its administrative map. It did so more conscientiously in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. A wealth of official documents of the Chinese Government, its local history books and official maps have recorded the exercise of jurisdiction by the successive governments of China over the Nansha Islands and recognized these islands as Chinese territory. Up till the beginning of this century, the Chinese Government had exercised peaceful jurisdiction over the Nansha Islands without any disputes.

Since the beginning of this century, the Chinese Government has undauntedly maintained China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands. In the 1930s, France once invaded and occupied nine of the Nansha Islands, over which the Chinese Government immediately made diplomatic representations with the French Government and against which Chinese fishermen staged an organized resistance. Between 1912 and 1949 when China was a republic, the then Chinese Government took a series of active measures to safeguard its sovereignty. For instance, it furnished the Chinese fishermen and fishing boats that engaged in the fishing on the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters with China's national flags. It organized trips to the Nansha Islands for a survey of their history and geography. And it authorized a map-printing and toponymic agency to rename and approve the names of all the islands on the South China Sea including the Nansha Islands, individually and collectively.

During World War II, Japan invaded and occupied China's Nansha Islands. China made unremitting efforts for the recovery of these islands from the Japanese occupation. In 1943, China, the United States and the United Kingdom announced in the Cairo Declaration that all the territories that Japan had stolen from China should be "restored to China," including "Manchuria, Taiwan and the Penghu Islands." At that time, Japan put the Nansha Islands under the jurisdiction of Taiwan. The territories to be restored to China as identified in the Cairo Declaration naturally included the Nansha Islands. The 1945 Potsdam Proclamationconfirmed once again that the stolen territories should be restored to China. According to the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Proclamation, China recovered the Nansha Island in 1946. At the same time it went through a series of legal procedures and announced to the whole world that China had resumed the exercise of sovereignty over the Nansha Islands. Subsequently, the Chinese Government held a take-over ceremony and sent troops to the islands on garrison duty. An official map of the Nansha Islands was drawn and printed, the Nansha Islands were renamed, collectively and individually, and the earliest book of the physical geography of the Nansha Islands was also compiled and printed.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Nansha Islands were incorporated into Guangdong Province and Hainan Province successively and the Chinese Gvoernment has all along maintained China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and taken effective actions for that.

In view of all this, the Chinese Government has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands. Some countries have claimed sovereignty of these islands on the ground that these islands are within their continental shelves or exclusive economic zones. According to international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, maritime rights and interests should be based on territorial sovereignty for the former derives from the latter. No country should be allowed to extend its maritime jurisdiction to the territories of other countries, still less should it be allowed to invade and occupy other's territory on the ground of exclusive economic zones or the continental shelves. All in all, any action by any country with regard to the islets, islands or reefs of the Nansha Islands, military or otherwise, constitutes encroachment of China's territorial sovereignty. It is illegal and null and void according to international law. It can in no way serve as a basis for a country's territorial claim, nor can it change China's indisputable legal status as having sovereignty over the Nansha Islands.


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