China has “no historic title over the waters of the South China Sea,” the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague has ruled.

In a 497-page ruling published on Tuesday, the court said that China had interfered with the rights of Philippine fishermen at Scarborough Shoal by restricting their access, and had inflicted “irreparable harm” to the marine environment. It said that Chinese law enforcement vessels had created a serious risk of collision and that there was no legal basis for China to claim rights to resources in the disputed waters.

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Photo: HKFP remix.

“China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration, by constructing artificial islands and failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone,” the court said in a statement.

See also: VIDEO: ‘South Sea arbitration, who cares?’ – Defiant militaristic music video gains traction in China

It further ruled that the Spratly Islands “cannot generate maritime zones collectively as unit” as China had claimed.


China said it would not recognise the decision, calling it “ill-founded” and questioning the court’s jurisdiction on the issue. Meanwhile, state news wire Xinhua described the tribunal as “law-abusing.”

The Philippines said it “welcomed” the decision, but urged restraint.

China has expansive territorial claims in the region, which is believed to hold untapped natural gas and oil reserves. It has asserted its sovereignty based on a map drawn in the 1940s showing a “nine dash line” stretching south from mainland China to encompass the islands.

See also: China censors coverage of South China Sea ruling

Its neighbours the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims in the area.

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Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.