Ex-Philippine officials accuse Xi of crimes against humanity

Ex-Philippine officials accuse Xi of crimes against humanity

The Associated Press

Two former Philippine officials have taken the bold step of filing a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing Chinese President Xi Jinping of crimes against humanity. It focuses on his government’s assertive actions in the disputed South China Sea, which they say has deprived thousands of fishermen of their livelihood and destroyed the environment.

Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, pictured left, and chief anti-graft prosecutor Conchita Carpio Morales, pictured right, said they filed the complaint with the tribunal in mid-March 2019, before the current Philippine president’s move to withdraw the country from the tribunal took effect.

They accused Xi and other Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials of turning seven disputed reefs into islands in a massive engineering feat, causing extensive environmental damage and of blocking large numbers of fishermen, including about 320,000 Filipinos, from their fishing grounds.

“This has seriously undermined the food and energy security of the coastal states in the South China Sea, including the Philippines,” del Rosario and Carpio Morales said in a prepared statement.

The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) island building, which started in 2013 with the aim of constructing air and naval bases in the disputed waters, reportedly destroyed large expanses of coral reefs and endangered fisheries.

“It presents one of the most massive, near permanent and devastating destruction of the environment in humanity’s history,” they said.

“Though widely publicized, these atrociously inhumane actions of Chinese officials in the South China Sea and within Philippine territory remain unpunished, and it is only the ICC that can exact accountability on behalf of Filipinos and the international community,” they said.

There was no immediate reaction from the CCP.

Chinese officials have long claimed virtually the entire waterway, one of the world’s busiest, with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also contesting ownership of parts of the strategic waters. It’s a major transit route for a large amount of world goods and the oil that fuels Asia’s bustling economies.

When he was the Philippines’ top diplomat, del Rosario questioned the legality of the PRC’s massive claims and other actions in a landmark international arbitration case against Beijing that the Philippines won, but the PRC ignored the ruling.

The arbitration tribunal declared in its July 2016 ruling that the PRC’s claims based on historical grounds were invalid and that PRC forces have unlawfully prevented Filipino fishermen from the disputed Scarborough Shoal. The tribunal also ruled that the PRC breached its obligation under a 1982 United Nations treaty to protect the environment by undertaking island building and tolerating illegal fishing by Chinese nationals.

Despite the arbitration ruling and a 2002 accord with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to stop occupation and construction in the disputed region, Beijing planned “behind the scenes” and later constructed the islands in the disputed territory, the complaint said. “This has placed billions of dollars’ worth of natural resources, including fish, fossil fuels and shipping lanes under Beijing’s control,” it said.

The complaint outlined the CCP’s increasingly assertive actions through the decades, starting in 1974, when it forcibly dislodged Vietnamese forces from the Paracel Islands, to 1995, when it seized Philippine-claimed Mischief Reef, and 2013, when it started its island building.

Aside from Xi, the complaint named as “perpetrators” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Chinese Ambassador to Manila Zhao Jinhua.