Beijing brushes off Manila's outcry on water cannon use

Updated: 2014-02-26 02:19

By Zhou Wa and Zhang Yan (China Daily)

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Beijing rejected a protest from Manila on Tuesday over a Chinese coast guard vessel's use of water cannon on Filipino fishermen in waters near Huangyan Island in late January.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that Chinese vessels were protecting national sovereignty and ensuring "normal order" in the region.

"China does not accept the representations or protests from the Philippines," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

Hua said it is reasonable for China to manage foreign ships in the South China Sea, including vessels from the Philippines. "We demand that the country earnestly respect China's sovereignty and not provoke any new incidents," she said.

"Manila is building an image of 'victim' with its protest so that it can be seen as taking the moral high ground and curry international sympathy," said Wu Shicun, director of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies.

A researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences agreed: "The Philippines has been attempting to make the Huangyan Island issue an international one, so that Manila can gain more bargaining power to challenge China," the researcher, Li Guoqiang, said. He added that Manila is using the protest as a publicity stunt to win US support.

Earlier this month, a US official said Washington would come to the aid of the Philippines in the event of an escalated conflict with China over the disputed waters, although the White House has said publicly in previous statements that it does not take sides in the territorial dispute.

On Jan 27, a Chinese coast guard ship tried to drive Filipino fishermen away from Huangyan Island by using a water cannon, according to General Emmanuel Bautista, head of the Philippine military.

Philippine Foreign Ministry spokesman Raul Hernandez criticized China's move as escalating tensions in the area.

But Li, the researcher, said that Manila is directing the focus toward China when it is actually Manila itself that is threatening regional peace and security through inappropriate moves that violate China's territorial integrity. Ties between Beijing and Manila were strained in recent years as the Philippines breached waters around Huangyan Island more frequently.

In June, a Philippine security official said that the country had deployed a fresh batch of marines and supplies to Ren'ai Reef, where a Philippine warship was grounded in 1999.

Beijing has repeatedly asked Manila to withdraw the ships, but the Philippines has ignored the request and continued to occupy the reef.

"Manila wants to give a false impression to the world that it is 'controlling' Huangyan Island and the adjacent waters," institute director Wu said.

On Nov 29, the legislature in China's Hainan province approved a requirement that foreign fishing boats and foreigners must obtain permission under the authorities of the State Council to fish or carry out fishery resource surveys within waters administered by China's southernmost island province. That regulation took effect on Jan 1.

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