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Document to be sent to influencers

Updated: 2016-07-11 09:02
By Fu Jing in The Hague, the Netherlands (China Daily)

Chinese scholars to spread legal argument to high-profile contacts around globe

A group of Chinese scholars of international law plans to send an open letter to international organizations and universities around the world to challenge any ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal on the South China Sea on Tuesday, when it is scheduled to issue a decision.

"We will send the letter to influential contacts and the tribunal as well to tell the arbitrators how they have damaged the spirit of international law by accepting the unilaterally initiated case on the South China Sea dispute," said Peng Qinxuan, a doctoral candidate at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Peng spoke to China Daily in front of the Peace Palace in The Hague, where members of the group gathered on Saturday. The case, initiated by the Philippines, challenges Beijing's territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation in the area.

Up to 30 scholars, lawyers and students have been drafting the 12-page open letter since April, explaining why the tribunal has no authority in the case.

"When the ruling is given, our open letter will be made public and this is our professional ruling against the tribunal's award."

They have been working long days searching for the contact information of international organizations, leading law schools and Chinese student associations at overseas universities. "We aim to search for support as much as possible to spread the valid message of Chinese youth," Peng said.

They held copies of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in their hands as they gathered Saturday in front of The Hague, where the tribunal is based. They called the UNCLOS the bible for dealing with maritime disputes.

But the document does not cover territorial sovereignty or boundaries, said Xu Qi, a doctoral candidate at Groningen University in the Netherlands. "China believes the nature of the dispute is about sovereignty and so the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the case," he said.

Xu said the open letter, to be sent in English, Chinese and Dutch, sets out clear reasons why the pending ruling is invalid. "The letter consists of four parts," he added.

Zhang Tong, a master's degree student at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said under the framework of international law, state sovereignty is fully respected and state consent is the starting point for any international arbitration.

"I feel disappointed that the tribunal has not respected China's sovereignty claim in the dispute, though international law recognizes China's right to refuse to authorize the tribunal to work as a go-between," Zhang said.

"I am doubting the so-called rule of international law because of illegal involvement of the tribunal in the South China Sea dispute."By Fu Jing in The Hague, the Netherlands

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