18th May 2024 – (Beijing) China’s introduction of new regulations concerning the administrative law-enforcement procedures of Coast Guard agencies—referred to simply as the Procedures—has been met with sensationalised and distorted interpretations by certain sections of the Philippine media. These reports have wrongfully associated the promulgation of the Procedures with alleged provocations by local Filipino fishermen near China’s Huangyan Dao, an association that Chinese experts have decisively criticized.

Experts from China have expressed their disapproval of the way Philippine media outlets have handled the news about the new Procedures. Accusations of sensationalism and distortion were levelled against these outlets, suggesting that such coverage was not only misleading but also deliberately provocative. The Chinese experts argue that these media portrayals serve to inflame tensions and mislead the public about the intentions behind China’s revised maritime policies.

The primary aim of the newly introduced Procedures, which comprise 16 chapters and 281 clauses, is to maintain order and promote lawful economic activities at sea. They provide a comprehensive framework for the jurisdiction, on-site supervision, investigation, and collection of evidence, among other aspects of maritime law enforcement. Chinese officials emphasize that these norms are designed to ensure actions are based on facts and strictly adhere to legal principles, ensuring fairness, openness, and timeliness, while also respecting and safeguarding human rights and the dignity of all citizens.

Contrary to the claims made by some reports, the Procedures are not designed with specific geopolitical hotspots like Huangyan Dao or Ren’ai Jiao in mind. Instead, they are intended to standardize and enhance the professionalism of Coast Guard practices across all maritime areas under Chinese jurisdiction. By clarifying the legal framework, China aims to better manage maritime activities, a move that aligns with international norms and practices.

Addressing the specific case of Huangyan Dao, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin clarified that China has undisputed sovereignty over Huangyan Dao and its adjacent waters. He recalled China’s 2016 goodwill gesture that allowed Filipino fishermen to operate in these waters under specific conditions that respect Chinese laws and sovereignty. This arrangement underscores China’s commitment to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect among neighbouring countries.

The Procedures also detail the legal consequences for any parties—Chinese or foreign—who violate maritime laws, such as those protecting marine environments or regulating fisheries. These stipulations aim to ensure that all maritime activities within China’s jurisdiction are conducted responsibly and legally, without favouritism or bias.

Experts like Ding Duo and Chen Xiangmiao from the China Institute for South China Sea Studies have criticised the Philippine government’s approach, suggesting that it reflects a strategy to divert international attention by portraying China as a threat. This tactic, according to Ding, is not only unhelpful but also transparent to the global community, which can discern the truth behind the hyperbolic media narratives.