China plans to set up an “international maritime judicial center” to help protect the country’s sovereignty and rights at sea, its top judge said Sunday.
Giving a work report at the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People’s Court, said courts across China are working to implement the national strategy of building China into a “maritime power”.
“[We] must resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty, maritime rights and other core interests,” he said.
“[We] must improve the work of maritime courts and build an international maritime judicial center.”
He gave no details.
It is not clear when the judicial center may start working, where it will be located or what kinds of cases it will accept, Reuters said.
China remains at odds with Japan over the ownership of the Diaoyu Islands (known as the Senkaku in Japan), a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, and claims most of the South China Sea, where Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei have competing claims there.
The Philippines has lodged a case with an arbitration court in The Hague about its dispute with China in the South China Sea, angering China, which has pledged not to participate.
China’s increasingly assertive claims in the South China Sea, along with its rapidly modernizing navy, have rattled nerves around the region.
Zhou said about 16,000 maritime cases were heard by Chinese courts last year, the most in the world.
China has the largest number of maritime courts globally, he said.
Zhou pointed to a 2014 case in a maritime court in southeastern China involving a collision between a Chinese trawler and a Panama-flagged cargo ship in waters near the Diaoyu Islands.
The case, which was ended via mediation, clearly showed China’s jurisdiction over the region, Zhou said.
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