Beijing raises rhetoric ahead of South China Sea ruling

A woman passes a military propaganda poster on a street in Shanghai, on July 12, 2016.
A woman passes a military propaganda poster on a street in Shanghai, on July 12, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - China's propaganda efforts over the South China Sea tribunal ruling went into overdrive on Tuesday (July 12), with media outlets denouncing the case and the impending outcome and slamming actions by the Philippine government under former president Benigno Aquino.

The state-run Xinhua news agency published a report headlined "Lies of Philippines' Aquino administration on South China Sea", which accused the former Philippine government of lying that it had no intention of applying for a ruling on sovereignty on maritime delimitation.

It also accused Manila of two other lies: that it had exhausted all diplomatic means before bringing the arbitration case against China and that it had fulfilled obligations on the exchange of views with the other party involved before unilaterally bringing the arbitration case against China.

"The arbitral tribunal, which first weighed its jurisdiction on the case, also played a role and set a bad example by lowering the criteria for the fulfilment of the obligation to exchange views," wrote Xinhua.

The front page of the state-run China Daily newspaper, carried a picture of the disputed Woody or Yongxing Island in the Paracels with the words "Arbitration invalid" on it.

The report said the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague had "explained the case in an irresponsible way and set a bad precedent", citing comments from law professionals and scholars interviewed.

They include Sierra Leonean Abdul Gadire Koroma, who served two terms as judge at the International Court of Justice. He said "the tribunal is not entitled to decide" questions concerning territorial sovereignty.

In a commentary on page three, the People's Daily, which is the Communist Party's mouthpiece, cited how nearly 70 countries and territories have supported China's decision not to take part in the proceedings nor to abide by the ruling.

It added that China is upholding international law by not taking part in the case or acknowledge the decision of a tribunal that has acted out of line with international law.

"It is getting clearer that reason is on our side. The force of international justice is strong. We cannot help but urge those countries and political forces that have been abusing international law to come to their senses," it added.

According to a latest update by the Chinese foreign ministry on Monday, 66 countries and territories have voiced support for China.

The nationalistic Global Times tabloid, which is linked to the Communist Party, tried to rally the Chinese citizens to join the government in opposing an unfavourable outcome towards China.

It said the most important thing for China is to show the outside world the solidarity of its society.

"No power in the world could split a united China. As long as we stick together, provocateurs are doomed to fail," it added.

In an email sent to Filipino citizens in China, the Philippine embassy warned them to watch out for personal "threats" and to avoid political debates due to possible tensions over the arbitration outcome.

According to a copy of an email seen by the AFP news agency, the embassy advised them to "avoid meetings and public discussions on political issues" and also discouraged them from joining political discussions or debates "especially on social media networks".

More than 20 policemen were seen deployed outside the Philippine embassy in Beijing on Tuesday, in a possible sign that protests are expected outside the building.

Nationalistic protests took place outside the Japanese embassy in 2012 after Tokyo nationalised some of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands contested by Beijing in the East China Sea.

Street demonstrations, including attacks on Japan-made vehicles, erupted in major Chinese cities too.

kianbeng@sph.com.sg