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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Chinese top court sets rules for punishing illegal fishing, territorial sea intrusion

  • August 27, 2016
  • , Sankei , Lead story
  • JMH Translation
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By Tatsuya Kato


The Chinese Supreme People’s Court promulgated on Aug. 1 “rules” on criminal liability for illegal fishing in waters “under China’s jurisdiction” and intrusion in territorial waters. This is the first time for the Chinese supreme court to come up with concrete judicial interpretations of laws pertaining to China’s maritime interests. Since these rules took effect, China has stepped up government ship activities in sea areas near the Senkaku Islands (in Ishigaki City, Okinawa), which it claims to be Chinese territory. Crew members of government ships have also been observed boarding Chinese fishing boats for “law enforcement.” Officials concerned with maritime issues are closely watching the situation in the belief that the new rules are behind these recent developments.


The Supreme People’s Court’s “rules regarding certain issues relating to dealing with matters in waters under China’s jurisdiction (1) and (2)” took effect on Aug. 2. The court defined in detail violations in Chinese waters and issues pertaining to the Chinese government’s jurisdiction and ordered strict law enforcement.


The rules stress that harsh criminal penalties will be imposed on environmental pollution and poaching of mantis shrimp, coral, other living organisms, and resources. Similar penalties will also apply to “transgression of the national boundary and entering Chinese territorial waters illegally” and “refusing to leave.” These rules will apply to waters “under China’s jurisdiction,” including “inland waters, territorial waters, contiguous zones, EEZs, and the continental shelf.”


China does not recognize Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, claiming them to be Chinese territory. It also asserts that its continental shelf includes the Okinawa trough. These latest rules legitimize law enforcement by Chinese government ships on Japanese fishermen operating in Japanese waters near the Senkakus under Chinese domestic law. Certain government sources see this as an attempt to intimidate Japan by hinting at the possibility of detaining Japanese citizens. (Slightly abridged)

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