The South China Sea Arbitration

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

The South China Sea, has emerged as a region of immense global interest and contention, especially in the contemporary times, owing to its vast economic and geostrategic significance.  1/3rd of the worlds maritime shipping passes through the sea carrying over USD $3 trillion in trade each year, making it the 2nd most used sea line in the world. The water body also has 1/3rd of entire world’s marine biodiversity and contains lucrative fisheries for providing food security to the South East Asian Nations. An estimated 160 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 12 billion barrels of oil lie beneath the South China Sea, which remained untapped to this day. Several countries bordering the sea including Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, China, Philippines, Indonesia, have raised conflicting claims of sovereignty over the waters and use resources of the South China Sea. One such dispute was decided by the arbitral tribunal in July, 2016, in a case brought People’s Republic of Philippines against People’s Republic of China.

The Dispute

In January 2013, Philippines initiated a case against China concerning the status of certain marine features in the South China Sea, which involved the interpretation and application of the provisions of the UNCLOS, and the latter’s alleged unlawful activities in the Sea. On 21st June, an arbitral tribunal of 5 arbitrators of the Permanent Court of Arbitration was established to settle the disputes in pursuance with the compulsory settlement procedure set out in Annex 7 of Part XV of the UNCLOS.

The Major Issues to be decided, in a nutshell were as follows:

  1. Whether China had ‘Historic Rights’ within its so-called 9 dash line?
  2. Whether certain maritime features as claimed by both the nations characterize as Island, rocks, low tide elevations or submerged banks under the convention?
  3. Whether certain activities of China in the South China Sea had violated the provisions of UNCLOS by interfering with sovereign rights of the Philippines?
  4. Whether certain actions undertaken by China in the Sea, since the commencement of the arbitration, had further aggravated the dispute between the parties?

In February 2013, China announced that it would not participate in the said proceedings, nor accept its award, asserting that the tribunal had no jurisdiction to determine the said dispute.  The same stance was further elaborated in the “White Paper” published by the State in 2014. Back in 2006, China made a written declaration, that the State would not accept any compulsory settlement procedures under the convention on issues of territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation over the South China Sea by invoking Article 298 of UNCLOS which gives the States the right to opt out of Compulsory Settlement procedures laid out in Section 2 of Part XV.

China also relied on the “Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea” (hereinafter referred to as “DOC”) adopted in 2002 by the ‘Association of South Asian Nations’(hereinafter referred to as “ASEAN”) to settle the relevant dispute concerning the South China Sea, through negotiations and conciliation, to assert its claim that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction. The DOC stipulated that the parties would undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional claims through peaceful means, without resorting to use of threat or force in accordance with the recognized principles of International Law.

Throughout the proceeding, China abstained from appearing in any hearing before the Permanent Court of Arbitration. It rejected and returned correspondences from the tribunal and neither officially provided clarifications or comments on any specific questions of substance or procedure, nor advanced any cost for the proceedings, reiterating its original stance that the arbitration initiated was flawed and hence void. But this did not impede the tribunal from conducting its proceeding according to Article 9, which stipulates that when one of the parties to the proceeding does not appear before the court or defends its claims, the tribunal shall continue the proceedings. Absence of the parties to defend its case or appear before the Court shall not bar the proceedings.

In October, 2015, the tribunal conducted a separate hearing on the issues of jurisdiction and admissibility of the case according to Article 288 of the convention, which provides for the determination of claims arising out of questions of jurisdiction of the tribunal or Court. After close interpretation of China’s Statement of 2006, the tribunal concluded under Article 298 of UNCLOS that the scope of the present matter was to determine maritime entitlements and the nature of the actions of China in the sea, and not maritime delimitations, and therefore China’s Statement did not deprive the Tribunal from deciding the case on merits. The tribunal also observed that entitlement to “maritime zones” is distinct from delimitation of those zones, in areas where they overlap. The tribunal found that the DOC adopted by the parties was a bilateral political instrument with no legally binding effect. And even if the treaties were binding, it would not obstruct the parties to choose an alternative dispute resolution mechanism. Additionally, the tribunal also clarified that it would honour China’s Declaration of 2006 and would not delve into the issued of maritime delimitations and sovereignty.

The nine-dash line, was originally an eleven-dash line, which had first been shown on the Map released by the Chinese Government in 1947. This line was later submitted to the UN in 2009, to justify its “Historic Rights” over the South China Sea. The U-shaped dotted line covers more than 90% of the South China Sea and extends much beyond the permitted EEZ of 200 nautical miles from the baseline. China’s Government has never officially explained the meaning of the line, nor provided any concrete legal evidence in favour of its claims. The line remains undefined as it does not have any specific geographic coordinates and provides no clarifications on how it was connected if it were a continuous line.  

The essential jurisdictional question concerning the 9-dash line and the historic rights therein was whether such a claim was encapsulated within the meaning of disputes…historic titles and bays” under Section 298(a)(1)(i) of the UNCLOS, and thus, the tribunal would be acting beyond its jurisdiction in deciding this issue, in accordance with China’s Declaration of 2006.

The tribunal approached this issue by observing that China’s claim was not one involving “Titles”, but rather “Rights” over the living and non-living resources in the marine area. It stated that the meaning of “Historic title” in Article 298 was “claims to sovereignty over maritime areas derived from historical circumstances” It also clarified that the word “title” did not cover the questions of “rights” within its ambit, and accordingly, since China’s claim was limited to its rights in the area, with no explicit claims of territorial sovereignty, the tribunal had jurisdiction to decide the claim.

The tribunal ruled in favour of Philippines, stating that China’s claim of “Historic Rights” over the area covered by the nine-dash line which virtually covers the entire South China Sea, was ambiguous and without any factual or legal evidence and hence incompatible with the provisions of UNCLOS. Although, Chinese fishermen and navigators, as well as those of foreign states, have made use of the resources and waters historically, there is no evidence that China historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or considered them as a part of its internal waters or territorial sea.

The tribunal accepted that in order to determine the extent of Philippines EEZ it was pertinent to examine all the relevant high tide features in the Spratly Islands. Unlike previous arbitral tribunals that have accepted certain features as rocks and islands without explicitly applying Article 121 of the UNCLOS, this tribunal interpreted the provision in detail. The tribunal concluded that if a maritime feature cannot sustain human habitation and economic life on the basis of its natural capacity, it does not meet the requirements of an island within the definition of UNCLOS. It placed significant emphasis on the natural conditions of a feature, without any external interventions, to support human life, to determine it as an island. Immediately, prior to the declaration of the award, China had heavily modified and enhanced the features of these islands. Applying, this conception, the tribunal found that though the relevant high tide features in the Spratlys and Scarbourgh Shoal were capable of inhabiting small groups of people, there was no substantial evidence of a stable human community ever occupying the place. The Tribunal also clarified that human intervention does not change the status of the feature. Hence, the tribunal classified all those features including the Scarborough Shoal as rocks within Article 121(3). which could not generate maritime entitlement to an EEZ or continental shelf.

The tribunal found that the Mischief Reef was a low tide feature that essentially forms a part of Philippines EEZ and by constructing artificial islands and installations in the area, without the authorisation of Philippines, China had breached Article 60 and 80 of the UNCLOS. China has also prevented Philippines from exploiting the natural resources within its own country’s continental shelf. The tribunal found China guilty of obstructing the operations of a Philippine survey ship around the area of the reed bank, thus infringing Philippines’ sovereign rights over the living and non-living resources of the continental shelf in the area of the Reed bank. In May, 2012, A Philippine navy surveillance aircraft detected 8 Chinese fishing vessels near the Scarborough Shoal. Further, China not only prevented Philippines’ fishermen from fishing within their own territorial waters, but also took no steps to curtail Chinese fishermen from fishing illegally within the Philippines’ EEZ.

In 2013, China began large land reclamation projects for constructing artificial islands in the areas of the Spratlys and the Paracel islands. Satellite images of the East of the Mischief Reef show that these islands are equipped with runways, aircraft hangers, bunkers and even radar sites. The Tribunal found that these activities of China were incompatible with the obligations on a State during a dispute resolution process, as such activities have caused severe harm and damage to the marine ecosystem and even destroyed evidence of the natural conditions of the features in the South China Sea that form a part of this dispute.

The tribunal overwhelmingly ruled in favour of Philippines on virtually every issue. It examined in detail the scope of Part XV of the UNCLOS with regard to Article 281. The ruling in the dispute is going to go a long way in emphasising the importance of settling highly contested and politically charged disputes between parties of unequal strength through arbitration. However, it also highlights the limitations of an arbitral tribunal based on its jurisdiction. Several scholars have criticised the composition of the tribunal and its detangling of the issue of sovereignty with maritime entitlements, without much justification.  After the award was declared in favour of the Philippines, China openly condemned the award and called it “null and void”. Though the award is legally binding on both the parties, there is no enforcement mechanism present in the convention to implement the award, giving one of the parties a sweet escape route from complying with the tribunal’s findings.

Author: Yashvi Maru, BLS LLB from Government Law College, Mumbai.

Editor: Astha Garg, Junior Editor, Lexlife India.

China’s new National Security Law and its far-reaching implications for Hong Kong

Reading Time: 3-4 minutes.

The new and approved law by China has drastically affected many citizens in Hong Kong. The law itself was passed following a unanimous approval from the National People’s Congress Standing Committee of 162 members. This law has been subjected to excessive criticisms internationally and has irrefutably affected citizens in Hong Kong, which is supposed to be a semi-autonomous region. One reason why this enactment is difficult to accept by many activists is because the National People’s Congress had passed this controversial security law in a unanimous manner by completely neglecting to consult and choosing to ignore the opinion of the Hong Kong legislature.

In order to fully grasp the nature of this new law, one must first understand what it is. The new national security law includes offences such as secession, terrorism, colluding with foreign forces and subversion against the Chinese government. Terrorism charges could apply in circumstances where the city’s transport networks are seriously interrupted, which protestors frequently did and advocating for foreign governments to impose sanctions, which again the citizens had done with the US and other governments. All of these offences carry a lifetime imprisonment instead of a 10-year imprisonment, which had been previously suggested. Furthermore, the draft of the legislation was not public before it was passed. Hence, the majority of the citizens in Hong Kong did not understand the law fully before it began to govern them, which is extremely difficult to accept for many citizens. The Hong Kong leaders have previously urged to enact this legislation, but 500,000 people in 2003 had gathered on the streets to protest against this enactment.

This law allows Chinese officials to operate in Hong Kong, which was not allowed previously and to give China the power to override laws in Hong Kong. Indeed, authorities in China will have jurisdiction over cases in Hong Kong, thus many offences in Hong Kong may be tried in China. In fact, the legislation gives the territory’s chief official answering to China, the power to decide the judges that would hear the trials for state security charges, which might perhaps limit the autonomy of the judiciary in Hong Kong. Moreover, in some cases even closed-door trials are to be permitted. China is also to establish a special police force in Hong Kong through the law to assure that the law’s implementation is successful to investigate special cases following instructions from China.

Essentially, if an inconsistency arises, the law would override Hong Kong’s legislation and Leong states that these provisions fundamentally alter Hong Kong’s legal system. Indeed, many believe that the passing of the law goes against the idea that China is one country with two systems. This model was designed for Hong Kong, which was previously a British territory and was given back to China in 1997 as a semi-autonomous special administrative region. This model allowed Hong Kong to keep its own currency, to have its own identity, free speech, judicial system, culture, press, and right to assembly and freedom from censorship against the authoritarian rule in China. However, as critics have suggested the law has perhaps altered the system into being a “one country, one system” and has significantly altered the freedom that the citizens had previously enjoyed and were promised to enjoy.

Nonetheless, the law also has far reaching implications on an international level. For instance, the United States announced that they will terminate their defence equipment exports and controlled dual-use technologies to Hong Kong. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had stated that the reason for these actions had been that if Hong Kong is treated by China as one country with one system then so will the US and that such an action is needed to protect US national security due to the inability to make a distinction between China and Hong Kong. Furthermore, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain even promised to permit three million citizens from Hong Kong the ability to live and work in Britain and in Taiwan it was expressed that efforts would be expanded to provide refuge to protestors who would want to leave Hong Kong and that in certain predicaments, the government would aid with work, study visas and other matters.

Anti-government protests have dominated Hong Kong’s streets since June 2019 against the Chinese efforts to implement the new national security law, which they believe would undoubtedly increase its power over the region. In both China and Hong Kong, the leadership announced that the new law will affect the legitimate rights of Hong Kong’s residents even though China had vowed to respect the “two systems” principle. The US, UK and Australia have all voiced their opinion that they oppose the new law and the European Parliament on June 23rd had voted to bring China before the International Court of Justice over the decision to enact the new law over the semi-autonomous Hong Kong. Moreover, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven counties had also intervened to urge China to reconsider its decision to impose national security legislation.

Many suspect that the Chinese lawmakers had introduced this law to limit free speech, news media critical of the Chinese government and protests in Hong Kong, which may contradict Hong Kong’s independence and democratic opposition. Indeed, pro-democracy activists and the Hong Kong Bar Association have extensively criticized the law, the Association calling it unconstitutional. Most of the criticism around this legislation is because many anti-legislation activists believe that the legislation will have the power to extinguish the protests movement that prevailed last year against the Chinese government. Some activists had even shut down their social media accounts for being pro-democracy and some political groups moved overseas and businesses had removed certain posters and artwork, which could be seen to support the violent demonstrations. While, the Chinese foreign ministry stated that the reason behind this legislation had been due to an urgency, which arose after thousands being injured and arrested and millions of dollars of damage being caused after the protests. On the other hand, others suggest that that this has to with the elections for the city’s legislature in September.

The legislation has once again sparked new unrest in Hong Kong, however much less severe than before perhaps because more than 50 people who protested against the law were arrested on Sunday and many fear that the national security law might further discourage other protestors who are not of a violent nature. Hong Kong’s global business attractiveness and perhaps China’s drastic measures to quell possible future pro-democracy movements in search for more control has caused Hong Kongers to raise funds for protests and seek parliamentary and governmental support around the world. The US Congress had passed the 2019 Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the 2020 Hong Kong Autonomy Act, and the Hong Kongers abroad seem determined to fight against the policies in Beijing by choosing to even be away from home while doing so. One can only wait with severe anticipation about the future of Hong Kong as such tensions should be resolved as soon as possible for the good of Hong Kong.

Author: Lina Petrovska, Student of LL.B. (H) at School of Law & Social Justice, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Explained: Containment plan for large outbreaks

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

The whole world is now under the Coronavirus pandemic and more than 3 months have already passed since December when its first case was seen. After declaring COVID-19 as a pandemic by WHO on 11th March, 2020 it has advised countries to take a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach, built around a comprehensive strategy to prevent infections, save lives and minimize impact. While, earlier the focus of spread was centred on China, it has now spread to over 200 countries/territories, with reports of local transmission happening in more than 160 of these countries/territories.

As in India the rate of spreading has increased as it started doubling of cases in 3-4 days. Thus, government realized to take another step for preventing this Pandemic and on 4TH April the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) released the plan i.e. Containment Plan for large outbreak. The document discuss the approach and highlights the actions that are required for containment. This plan is a necessary guidance document that have details of the contours of actions to be taken on the health and administrative front in case there is a large outbreak of coronavirus infections.

  1. Why is it introduced?

As government has found in India also, clusters have appeared in multiple States, particularly Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Karnataka, Telangana and UT of Ladakh. 211 districts are now reporting COVID-19 cases and the risk of further spread remains very high. The central government has brought out this plan to stop the chain of transmission and reduce morbidity and deaths.  

According to the document, in alignment with strategic approach, this document provides action that needs to be taken for containing a large outbreak. A large outbreak can be defined as a localised increase in the incidence of coronavirus cases occurring within a defined geographic area and it can happen within a village, town or even a big city. The document characterises it as a progression of a small cluster into bigger, multiple clusters.

Document/plan talks about Strategic approach, scope, objective, action plan, surveillance, clinical management, psychosocial support, pharmaceutical intervention, non- pharmaceutical intervention, material logistics, risk communication, information management, capacity building, financing of containment operation, scaling down of operation. So, the containment plan is detailed measures which need to be taken for different kinds of transmissions and it explains the actions to be taken to curb a large outbreak.

  • Salient feature

This ‘Containment Plan for Large Outbreak’ is a guidance document for both health and administrative measures as according to experts such a guidance document is necessary because it puts in place a well-defined strategy. So, it has some salient features as follows: –

  1. According to the containment plan, India is following a scenario-based approach, based on five possible situations: (a.) Travel related case reported in India (b.) Local transmission of COVID19 c.) Large outbreaks amenable to containment d.) Wide-spread community transmission of COVID19 disease e.) India becomes endemic for COVID19
  2. Early detection, surveillance and contact tracing for those who have travelled from affected countries, early diagnosis, making of PPE stock and risk communication for creating awareness are the Strategic approach for the Scenario: “Travel related cases reported from India”.
  3. The strategy for large outbreaks amenable to containment are Geographic quarantine and containment strategy and for these two strategy would run tighter.  As firstly defining geographic area by early detection of cases and then “barrier has to be erected around the focus of infection” which would ultimately help in preventing its spread to new areas.
  4. The Cluster Containment Strategy includes geographic quarantine, social distancing measures, enhanced active surveillance, testing all suspected cases, isolation of cases, quarantine of contacts and risk communication to create awareness among public on preventive public health measures.
  5. Differential approach to different regions of the country: – the report says that the current geographic distribution of COVID-19 mimics the distribution of H1N1 Pandemic Influenza. As during the H1N1 Influenza pandemic it was observed that well connected big cities with substantive population movement were reporting large number of cases, whereas rural areas and smaller towns with low population densities and relatively poor road/ rail/ airway connectivity were reporting only few cases. Thus, while the spread of COVID-19 in our population could be high, it’s unlikely that it will be uniformly affecting all parts of the country as said in the plan.
  6.  Some of the Acts/ Rules for providing legal support to implement the containment plan are (i) Disaster Management Act (2005) (ii) Epidemic Act (1897) (iii) Cr.PC and (iv) State Specific Public Health Act.
  7. The plan includes Institutional mechanisms and Inter-Sectoral Co-ordination at Union level, State level and Institutional arrangement at the operational level.
  8. On increase in the incidence of a COVID-19 cases, Epidemiological intelligence will be triggered for the action which will be provided by IDSPs early warning and response (EWAR) system. Routine laboratory based surveillance of SARI cases is another trigger for action.
  9. Emergency Medical Relief (EMR) division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will deploy the Central Rapid Response Team (RRT) to support and advice the State. The State will deploy its own State RRT and District RRT.
  10. All suspect/confirmed COVID-19 cases will be hospitalized and kept in isolation in dedicated COVID-19 hospitals/hospital blocks. The identified VRDL network laboratories and designated private laboratories nearest to the affected area, will be further strengthened to test samples
  11. The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) will be the nodal agency to plan and execute psycho-social support. NIHMANS will prepare a Psycho-Social Support plan and implement the same in the COVID affected areas.
  12. Hydroxychloroquine has been recommended as chemoprophylaxis drug for use by asymptomatic healthcare workers managing COVID-19 cases and asymptomatic contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases (however till now there is no approved specific drug or vaccine for cure or prevention of COVID-19).
  13. In the absence of proven drug or vaccine, non-pharmaceutical interventions which includes Preventive public health measures, Quarantine and isolation, Social distancing measures be the main stay for containment of COVID-19 cluster.
  14. Under the heading of ‘Material Logistics’; Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Transportation for mobilizing the surveillance and supervisory teams, Stay arrangements for the field staff, Bio-medical waste management would be done.
  15. The communication of risk is also necessary and thus the plan includes Risk communication material: (i) posters and pamphlets (ii) audio only material (iii) AV films (prepared by PIB/MoHFW)] for targeted roll out in the entire geographic quarantine zone & Communication channels includes: Interpersonal communication, Mass communication, dedicated helpline, Media Management.
  16. Plan also includes tasks of capacity building which comprises of training content, targeting trainee population, replication of training in unaffected districts.
  17. The operations will be scaled down if no secondary laboratory confirmed COVID-19 case is reported from the geographic quarantine zone for at least four weeks after the last confirmed test has been isolated and all his contacts have been followed up for 28 days.
  18. If the containment plan is not able to contain the outbreak and large numbers of cases start appearing, then a decision will need to be taken by State administration to abandon the containment plan and start on mitigation activities.
  • Critical analysis

The spreading of corona virus in India, till now, can be said to be in control as compared to the developed countries. In the large number of population of 130 million people the number is small but still the implementation of the plan have some deficiencies. These deficiencies can be said to be in the timing/ release (even not very late) of this Containment plan as well as not properly implementation of plan. Implementation of such type of plan must requires observation of the status quo of the place, social context in which the plan in implementing.

Firstly on the question why the plan came approx. 10 days late and why it should come up with the lockdown itself. This is because government has not analysed how much people has come from the abroad and it was utmost requirement from the government side as if they have found it earlier then perhaps the Cases like ‘Tablighi Jamaat’ (where they failed to detect the hotspot) could be solved easily. The areas may have option to quarantine (geographic quarantine) earlier and they may have not reached other parts of the country.

Now, it has come out that many foreigners have come to India and they have participated in religious events, however visas was not issued for that purpose. If government have taken into consideration the number of people have visited India from foreign they might have taken the decision to cancel the international commercial flights earlier (22 March). Also it is defect for the administration that they unable to know that larger number of jamaatis were residing at a place. Considering the large number of population and development level of country this plan should have come up with the lockdown for early effectiveness. However, plan able to recover it but that would be a remark for the future as it should be first task of any State that they must know how many people have visited their country which are essential to know to stop spread of viruses in these types of global pandemic.

Now, on the second question why this plan was not properly implemented. Plan which came after 10 days of lockdown could be said to properly implement if it has taken into consideration of the social context as well development level of India. After the lockdown it has come into news that hundreds of thousands of migrant laborers have begun long journeys on foot to get home, having been rendered homeless and jobless, and then it was necessary that there must be some plan before the news spread for giving them proper shelter and basic needs. Only announcement of plan doesn’t itself solve the problem. Government later have taken the decision to provide the necessary things but it was requirement from their side much earlier. When one people starts travelling other after seeing him encourage and this continues and the idea to erect the barrier hit.

Further government was aware that the number of tests that happened in country till then were very less and that might be causes of less number of corona patients, but still they have not came with this plan earlier. The transmission at local level have not developed despite many places social gathering has taken place, from now or from next time it is very important to take in consideration the social context at different level. It also requires analysis by bifurcation of the different occupations of people like how much people earning depend on daily wages because they may not die from Corona but they may die from Hunger.

  • Conclusion

The rate of Corona virus patient is still rising but we are fortunate that India has not reached the third stages of this pandemic but realising the population level it is important to take one step early every time. Taking decision one step early is not about proper planning rather necessity in context of India where there is lack of awareness. Secondly, there are large number of people working on daily basis wages and any decision of lockdown or this type of plan affects them the maximum and thus it is important to analyse for future that if such stages comes how their lives can be saved.

Further it is also time to take steps for the future that people must understands the terms like quarantine, lockdown, social distancing etc. so that they may not panic. Still a long way to go for fighting with this Corona Virus but we need to be cautious, and take decisive actions. The best thing to do is to properly implement this plan with the maximum support of people by giving them confidence, with a long vision to tackle the circumstances, Patience and control over oneself we can and we will win over Corona.

Author: Shashank Shekhar from Central University of South Bihar.

Editor: Tamanna Gupta from RGNUL, Patiala.

Coronavirus: Legal angle

Reading time: 6-8 minutes.

“No epidemic is local” is one of the most thought provoking remarks once made by Belgian Microbiologist Pitor Piot and now the milieu is such that the virus, popularly known as the Coronavirus or 2019-nCoV,  first discovered in the 1960s and named after the Latin word ‘corona’ (meaning crown) due to its shape, is spreading exponentially. As of February 6, 2020, the total number of persons who are suspected to be infected stands at 28,344 with 565 deaths around the globe.

The virus spreading trans-border has already affected 26 Countries, making it the third most sprawled contagion after SARs & MERs. India too, is witnessing the adversity of the outbreak as till date, 3 positive cases – all from Kerala – have been reported along with 5123 people being kept under surveillance and 1 under isolation.

What is coronavirus?

The outbreak was first zeroed down when, on the 31st December of 2019, the government of China informed the WHO about the plethora of pneumonia cases particularly in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province. The WHO on the 9th of January, 2020 reported the cause of the contagion to be a virus called Coronavirus.  

Scientists tracked the inception of the virus to be bat,making it cognate of SARs (Severe acute respiratory syndrome) & MERs (Middle East respiratory syndrome), which too originated from mammals. However, the situation gets more critical with nCoV as in case of SARs and MERs, the virus, to develop the ability to infect humans, first had to attack an intermediary host such as camel or civet cats, but the Coronavirus is capable of infecting humans directly from the respiratory tract of Bats.

How it affects the body

The coronaviruses belong to the group of RNA (ribonucleic acid) viruses responsible for bodily proteins. However, RNA lacks the capability of filtering the hostiles due to its rapid mutative process. The outbreak leading to the sixth World Health Emergency is alleged to be an airborne contagion spreading through ‘close contacts’ such as through cough or sneezes. The symptoms are common cough, fever, and difficulty in breathing, etc. Tough till now there have been no signs of vaccines, scientists at the National Institutes of Health along with several companies are striving for an antidote.

Steps taken by the Indian government

The government, post-detection of the third infected person in Kerala, has set up a task force to counter the outbreak. The State government of Kerala declared the 2019-nCoV to be a “state-calamity” as all the positive cases in India hail from Kerala. Moreover, the Indian government airlifted 645 people from China which includes 7 Maldivians, and all of them tested negative for the virus. The government sought to expand the thermal screening of passengers from 7airports to 20, along with an increase in the number of laboratories where the virus can be tested. The check is not only limited to aerodrome; the Mumbai Port Trust been directed to disallow shore permits to vessel setting in from China until health clearance. Following the Central government guidelines, a 24×7 call centre has been made operational along with rapid response teams deployed at key points such as Airports.

Laws in India regarding such epidemics

The legal framework in India is dicey when it comes to the prevention of infectious diseases. It is conceded that though the country has several tattered legal measures to counter epidemic, it is bereft of comprehensive legislation barring the archaic Epidemic Act, 1897.

The plague epidemic in Bombay led to the enactment of the 1897 legislation. The Act with its four sections, empowers the government to adopt transient measures & regulations to preclude the spread of the diseases along with imposing a penalty for disobedience of the regulations.

Additionally, Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) also warrants for punishment when a person contravenes an order promulgated by a public servant, thereby inculpating any person who contravenes any order which prescribes for non-spreading of infectious diseases.

On the other hand, The New Delhi Municipal Council Act, 1994 is a more broad-gauged Act when it comes to the prevention of communicable diseases & infections. Chapter XV of the Act which covers Sanitation & Public Heath provides for measures to prevent ‘dangerous diseases’, which is further defined under section 2(10)(b) of the Act empowering the Chairperson to declare a particular disease as dangerous via notification. The Act puts an obligation to inform about any dangerous disease along with measures such as removal of patients suffering from infectious diseases, disinfection & destruction of infected structures. The legislation empowers the Chairperson to impose special measures in case of an outbreak beyond the contemplation of the Act and hence makes it sufficient for exigencies.

The 1994 Act also provides measures which are to be taken to preclude any contagion such as disinfection of building before letting, an obligation to dispose of infected articles only after disinfection, and also empowers the Chairperson to restrict the sale of food & drinks.

Scope of improvement in medical laws

In India, there is immense scope of improvement in medical laws. At the rudimentary level, it is sine qua non to enact a comprehensive central legislation which not only comes into effect when there is an outbreak but also provides sufficiently for forestalling such outbreaks. Moreover, the complexity demands a balance between intellectual property rights and the rights of poor persons to have access to high priced antidotes.

Further, it is required that improvement in medical laws would also seek to fill the institutional voids as a result of which illiterate persons squander their monies on the services which are free of cost and also stand in a vulnerable position due to dearth of knowledge. It has also been evidenced that India holds a poor record regarding communication of risks of outbreaks and information to the World Health Organization which it is legally bound to do under the WHA54.14. Hence, it must be made compulsory for the government to disclose information at the first instance of detection.

It is a fact that while countering an epidemic, public health must be given primacy. However, legislation should also protect the data which is collected from the patients, which if not done, would infringe the right to privacy and hence a proper guideline as to the collection, dissemination, protection, and usages of data must be laid down to preserve confidentiality.

The development in the legal framework must also reflect the changes that were made in International Health Regulations, 2005 with regard to building a system where local governments hold the authority to respond rapidly without falling into the dicey floor of red-tapism. Compulsory disposition by patients should be brought into effect, which may go to the extent of forceful examination and if found positive, the person is to be hospitalized. Hence, what is required is that there must be a proper balance between the rights of individuals and endeavour of the State in securing public health.

Conclusion

At present, it is difficult to contemplate the anti-dote to 2019-nCoV. However, the government, with immediate effect, must enact a legislation to counter such exigencies more efficiently. The legislation is required to define the contours within which the officials should exercise their powers while dealing with an outbreak. It is a fact that archaic legislation like The Epidemic Act, 1897 can no longer be effective.

Thus, instead of relying on contingency measures, a permanent legal backing must be created which not only addresses the exigencies faced during an outbreak but also prevents and provides for measures which prevent such contagion.

Author: Ishan Mazumder from West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata.

Editor: Ismat Hena from Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia.

Special status of Hong-Kong

Reading time: 6-8 minutes.

On Thursday 16th January 19, 2020, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive leader, Carrie Lam stated that the special status that was given to Hong Kong in 1997 by Britain, can be sustained beyond 2047.

The special status symbol of “one country, two systems” framework by which China governs Hong Kong, gives the region a high level of autonomy on paper, the status was given for a period of 50 years by Britain when the territory was handed over to China in 1997. The constitution of Hong Kong does not mention the fate of the principle beyond 2047.

Lam made it evident that the people of Hong Kong need to wear their loyalty to Beijing on their sleeve. This statement came as a final warning to those who have been protesting the affiliation of Hong Kong to China and wanting an independent country.

Lam’s comments echo the language of China’s Communist Party leaders. The pro-democratic lawmakers shouted and raised several questions along with calling Lam to resign. As a result, the lawmakers were ordered to leave the council hall for repeatedly interrupting Lam.

What is the status?

According to Article 31 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong has a Special Administrative Region status by which the policy of “one country, two systems” is implemented. The Special Administrative Region can have different political and economic systems from that of China. Hong Kong’s constitution which is the basic law was approved in March 1990 by the People’s Republic of China and came into force upon transfer of sovereignty on 1st July 1997.

This status guarantees specific liberties to Hong Kong which are not available to China such as freedom of speech and expression. Under this status, Hong Kong enjoys a high level of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs. Hong Kong has this special status for a period of 50 years, which would be ending in the year 2047 but might get extended as hinted by the Leader of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam.

Why was it granted?

The main motive of administering Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) under the One Country Two System principle, was to maintain the sovereignty of the territory to Beijing. The policy was proposed by Deng Xiaoping with the idea of unifying China and Taiwan under the policy but Taiwan rejected the offer.

The island has been run as a separate entity from China, nevertheless, Beijing never gave up its claim over Taiwan. The 5th session of the 5th National People’s Congress amended the constitution to include Article 31 by which the Country (China) can establish Special Administrative Regions (SARs) when necessary.

Currently, Hong Kong and Macau have been established as Special Administrative Regions and enjoy certain liberties that China does not. China needs Hong Kong even though China has extensive capital controls, Hong Kong is one of the most open economies in the world and one of the biggest markets for equity and debt financing.

Its salient features

The following are the features of the special status summed up-

  • The special status grants liberties which are unavailable on the mainland, such as an independent judiciary and freedom of expression.
  • A special status internationally which allows the territory to negotiate trade and investment agreements independently from Beijing. Hong Kong is unaffected by the ongoing trade war between the United States and China, the territory does not have to pay any tariffs imposed by the United States on China. This increases investor faith since China’s legal system is heavily influenced by the Communist party.

Probable future

With the ongoing pro-democracy protests, Hong Kong’s economic and political future gloom concern as protests drag on and have even turned violent on many occasions, while China makes it clear that forceful intervention is possible.

The protests have been going on due to continuous intervention by China, influencing various policies that have plagued the autonomy of the territory. The protestors demand the resignation of the Chief Executive Leader, Carrie Lam due to her political affiliations with the People’s Republic of China.

The special status of Hong Kong ends in 2047 officially, completing 50 years but recent claims by Carrie Lam hint that the special status could continue beyond 2047. If the same is finalized along with the continuous interference of China into the territory, there are high chances of protests escalating and China intervening to stop them as well.

The day of July 1 used to be celebrated as Hong Kong was handed over by the British but now witnesses a huge protest every year. While the special status has its advantages on paper, providing free trade and better business opportunities, continuous intervention by the mainland has errored the tag of “special”.

Conclusion

The special status was given to Hong Kong so that it could have complete autonomy in certain areas but that is evidently changing. There is a heavy influence from the Communist Party of China according to which decisions are being made in the territory.

The Leader of the territory is backed by the mainland as well and tabling bills that speak the language of the Communist Party. Heavy protests are still taking place and it is only a matter of time before China officially gets involved.

The impact of China getting involved would have an impact internationally and the advantages of Hong Kong’s special status would unravel as investors would seek other highly-respected legal systems and low-tax financial centers. Carrie Lam’s recent remark about extending the special status beyond 2047 could stir up some issues again.

With pro-democracy lawmakers being asked to leave the council chamber for going against Carrie Lam, it is only a matter a time the same is done to the protestors as well. With the extradition bill taken back, the protestors are relieved that even if they are put behind bars, they won’t be sent to China where rights of the accused, especially those who speak up against the current government, are unknown.

The protests evidently don’t seem to subside, it looks like a long fight for the people of Hong Kong but with the Communist Party of China involved, the scope for formal dialogue between the government and its people is bleak.

Author: Mohsin Rahim from O.P Jindal Global University, Sonipat.

Editor: Tamanna Gupta from RGNUL, Patiala

US-China trade war

Reading time: 6-8 minutes.

In order to understand the China-USA bilateral today, one must know how exactly the Sino-American war started. China has a population of 1,436,671,834 whereas that of the United States of America is just 330,074,622.

The demography itself suggests as to which country is a bigger market. On an average, American consumers purchase around $500 billion of goods from China whereas Chinese consumers purchase only $100 billion worth of goods from the United States.

The two States are now into a fight of egos. The USA imposed a 25% tariff on $34 billion worth of imports from China. In retaliation, the Chinese government almost doubled its own tariff rates, and it goes further on. The United States later increased the rate of tariff from 3.8% to 6.7% and in retaliation the Chinese more than doubled their rate of tariff.

The passive-aggressive battle grew so severe that during the 2016 Presidential Campaign trail, the main contention of President Donald Trump was that he would not “let China rape USA anymore” and he is working to implement it as well. This race of increasing tariffs is adversely affecting the taxpayers of the two countries.

Tariffs:

Tariffs are essentially taxes that are levied by the government of a country on the imports of goods and services produced in some other country at a specific place. Therefore, when one country desires to reduce trade with some other country, the former increases the tariff rate, as a result the latter is discouraged from exporting products that levy high tariffs.

This scenario is similar to that of the US-China Trade war where, USA wanted China to purchase goods and services from them and not merely take imports from China. As a result, this trade war ensued.

Implications for global trade:

With the world’s two superpowers at a trade war, one being the ever-powerful USA and the other being the world’s factory, the global economy is tripping and falling very hard. The International Monetary Fund has said that the economic growth in the world decrease substantially due to the tension between China and USA.

This trade war is not only harming the global economy but also putting at stake the citizens of the world, by making them suffer in the ego war of two very powerful nation.

On the other hand, other Asian countries like Taiwan (China’s province), Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines have reportedly earned more than substantial benefits from the Trade War due to their geographical location in the globe.

Implications for India:

In the war between the two nations, India as a third party has gained substantial profits. The US tariffs on China have proven beneficial for India, gaining $755 million in additional exports to the US in the first half of 2019 by selling more chemicals ($243 million), metals and ore ($181 million), electrical machinery ($83 million) and various machinery ($68 million) as well as much more increased exports in areas such as agricultural products, furniture, office machinery, instruments, textiles and apparel and transport equipment than earlier as reported by The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

India has gained around $755 million in additional exports, mainly of chemicals, metals and ore, to the US in the first half of 2019 due to the trade diversion effects of Trump’s tariff war with China, as reported by the UN trade and investment body.

International legal provisions regarding unfair trade practices:

The important promise that China made when it became a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in the year 2001 was that it would not continue some of the unfair practices that were popular with the Chinese earlier, and would start to obey the principle of balance of rights and obligations. By being a WTO Observer, China had opened their markets to the world, making commitments to obey the rules set up by the Organisation.

Since then, there have been allegations from the US that the Chinese have stolen their Intellectual Property by unfair means of trade. This has resulted in China’s indulgence in unfair competitive practices.

The World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that came around during the 1986-94 Uruguay Round, introduced intellectual property rules into the multilateral trading system for the first time.

The TRIPS Agreement covers five broad areas:

  1. The application of general provisions and basic principles of the multilateral trading system which apply to international intellectual property;
  2. The minimum standards of protection to be provided for intellectual property rights by the members;
  3. The procedures in which members should provide for the enforcement of those rights in their own territories;
  4. Amicable settlement of disputes on intellectual property between members of the WTO;
  5. Special transitional arrangements to be entered upon by the members for the implementation of TRIPS provisions.

The TRIPS Agreement also provides that the government should discourage anti-competitive agreements in multilateral trading restricting anti-competitive agreements and obstructing technology transfer.

In the case of the USA, the government can act on such companies that they claim to have stolen their intellectual property. There is actually more to the trade war than just tariffs, USA has already imposed restrictions on some Chinese firms especially in the tech industry.

Conclusion:

The two nations need to understand that the only sufferers in the war are the taxpayers of the two countries, since they pay the taxes for their better future, for better life style, for their country to flourish not to nurture the arrogance of the governments of these nations.

The United States of America has a largely aggressive approach towards the trade policies in general, not only with China. They must cool it down and work on building more amicable bilaterals with their trade partners, or else there is no probable coming back of the Republican Party in 2020.

At the same time China must obey the rules of the WTO agreement and make sure that there are no unfair practices on their part. Over the years China has done a lot to frustrate the interest of USA by isolating the US companies and treating the Chinese companies differently. This war should end and with the Phase One being signed, maybe it’s the beginning of the end of the War.

Author: Samruddhi Sunil Joshi from D.E.S. Shri Navalmal Firodia Law College (Fergusson College), Pune.

Editor: Anna Jose Kallivayalil from NLU, Delhi.

An analysis of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong

Reading time: 5-6 minutes.

For the past 6 months, the world nations are aware of the serious protest that is taking place in Hong Kong against the passing of the Extradition Bill and several issues that took the spotlight thereon. This geo political mess has made a great impact on trade and commerce among different countries.

Chronology of the past events:

Hong Kong was originally ruled by the Qing dynasty until the treaty of Nanking was signed in 1842. The treaty leads to the ceding of the territory to the British. In the 1980s China initiated the talks with the UK government for transferring the territories to them and the concept of “One country two systems” was promised which was introduced by Deng Xiaoping. According to this principle, Hong Kong and Macau shall have their own economic and administrative systems and Main Land China shall control their defense and diplomacy.  

By taking into account the principle, the Sino- Beijing Joint Declaration was signed on December 19, 1984, between the UK and China which guaranteed autonomy to Hong Kong after 1997. Consequently, in the year 1997, Hong Kong was declared to be a region of China and it became a special administrative region.

Reasons for the introduction of the extradition bill:

The main reason for the outbreak of the protest is passing the extradition bill which was the outcome of the murder of a young girl named Poon Hui Wig by her boyfriend Chan Tong Kai which took place in Taiwan. He later returned to Hong Kong and confessed about the crime there. He could not be charged for those crimes and could not be extradited to Taiwan because there was no extradition agreement between those two countries. This resulted in bringing changes to the fugitive laws.

The government proposed changes in the ordinance which helps in establishing a mechanism for carrying out case by case transfer of the fugitives to the respective lands where they committed the crime. The major concern of the pro-democratic protesters is that the Beijing has a greater involvement with the changes that were proposed to be brought in the fugitive offenders ordinance and mutual legal assistance in criminal matters ordinance which is in contradiction with the one country two systems policy which was ratified post-1997 and hence the protests.

Nature of protests and how it changed:

No specific organization has claimed them to be responsible for these protests. The protest usually consists of young people who are mostly students. Though the protest started peacefully, violence and riots broke off later between the police officials and the protestors when an emergency regulation ordinance was introduced which prevented the protests from wearing masks in public gatherings. During the 70th year celebration of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, a protestor was shot in the chest by the police amidst the chaos. Similarly, another man lost his life after being hit by the bricks and a man was set on fire. This was one of the main causes for the eruption of violence among the protestors.

On July 21, a clash developed in between a mob and the protestors and police remained silent. The protestors lost trust on the police after such incident.

Another main reason for the violence among the crowd is because of spreading of rampant misinformation and conspiracy theories that are being circulated in the internet. The protestors are also accusing the Beijing government of employing infiltrators among their crowd. 

The protestors are gathered at the airports and are forcing the authorities to cancel their flights. To disrupt the crowd, the police are using tear gas and rubber bullets to contrail the protestors. The protest marked to be the most violent of all post-1997.

Demands of the protestors:

The main aim of the one nation two systems doctrine is to give certain autonomous status to the country. However, the pro-democratic protests are of the view that the Mainland China is trying to curb the autonomy by introducing laws that may exploit the civil rights of the Hong Kong protestors by introducing the extradition bill by the Hong Kong government.

One of the main demands put forth by the protests is to scrape the bill from being passed in the parliament. The protestors wanted to conduct a thorough investigation towards police brutality and they would rather prefer not to call these a ‘riot’. They wanted the arrested protestors to be released from the prison. The main person responsible for the bill being introduced was Carrie Lam, Chief executive and the protestors want her to resign from her post.

The pro-democratic supporters wanted to establish universal adult suffrage in the elections of the legislative council and chief executive.

The reaction of Chinese administration:

The Beijing government and their media are strong of the opinion that the US played an important role concerning the instigation of these protests and that they have a strong hand behind these protests. The president Xi Jinping supports Carrie Lam’s government and he established his desire to reiterate the principle of ‘One nation One system’ at the event on October 1 which is the day of celebration of the establishment of People’s Republic of China. 

He also accuses the protestors of showing signs of terrorism and they are violating the principles of rule of law. He appreciated the Carrie Lam’s leadership in handling the arrests of the protestors.

The Chinese military has their forces present in the country but it is seen as threat rather than an actual intervention by the Beijing government. As of the present day, the Beijing government has not taken any direct actions. They left the matters to be dealt by the local government.

International reactions:

Leaders of several nations have delivered their opinions on the ongoing protests. The Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison aligns with the claims of the protestors and asks the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam to listen carefully to the protestors and arrive at a peaceful and calm solution.

The European Union wants the fundamental rights of the protestors of assembly and expression has to be respected by the government while though the USA stays neutral concerning the issue, President Trump says that he is hoping for China and Hong Kong to figure out the way to work out a better solution.

The United Kingdom wants the right of the protestors to be heard and then Prime Minister Theresa May states that China has to be abiding by the principle enunciated in the International law concerning the Sino British Joint Declaration and has to be respected by China.

Conclusion:

While these protests are being carried out in the country, it is pertinent for the Chinese government to come to an amicable solution to avoid any sort of damage to either of the countries. The Beijing government must take into consideration the fundamental rights of these protests from not being violated and on the other hands take measures to restore peace and public order.

Author: Shuruthi from Sastra University, Thanjavur.

Editor: Tamanna Gupta from RGNUL, Patiala.


Unravelling the Hong Kong conundrum

Reading time: 6-7 minutes.

Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous southern Chinese city. It lies on the eastern side of Pearl River estuary. Officially it is known as ‘Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China’. It was a former British colony which was returned to China in 1997 under the principle of ‘one country, two systems’. This meant that Hong Kong could have its own political and legal system, own currency and borders. In fact, the legal system of Hong Kong guarantees to its people many rights and freedom like freedom of speech and expression which are non-existent in the Chinese mainland.

Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and one of the world’s significant economic hubs. Currently the city of Hong Kong is witnessing huge protests and social unrest which was triggered by the introduction of a controversial piece of legislation, namely, the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019 (hereinafter referred to as the Extradition Bill).

What began as just resentment against a law has now assumed bigger proportions and has turned into a social and pro-democracy movement. So far, a large number of civilians have been injured in the protests. But the protestors have vowed that they would continue their fight their demands have been fulfilled.

What is the Extradition Bill, 2019 all about?

The Extradition Bill, 2019 was passed by the Hong Kong government in February this year. The Bill states that Hong Kong government will accept legal request from other countries for extradition of criminal suspect, who have fled to Hong Kong after committing a crime in their territory, to face trial. The Bill allows extradition to mainland China and even to those countries with which Hong Kong does not have an extradition treaty.

The Bill allows extradition of only those fugitives who are accused of offences that are punishable with a sentence of at least seven years. Extradition of people accused of political and religious crimes is also not allowed. The Bill grants the power to decide on an extradition request to Hong Kong’s Chief Executive whose decision would then be reviewed by the courts.

The Bill came to be introduced in the wake of an incident in February 2018 when a 19-year-old man, after murdering his 20-year-old pregnant girlfriend in Taiwan, fled to Hong Kong. Though the Taiwanese officials sought help from Hong Kong to extradite the criminal, Hong Kong government could not comply with the request due to lack of an extradition agreement with Taiwan.

What was the reaction of the people of Hong Kong to this Bill?

The Bill was introduced to plug the loophole which allowed criminals like the 19-year old to avoid the law. However, the opponents of the Bill are of the opinion that the enforcement of this Bill would subject the people of Hong Kong to arbitrary detention, unfair trial and torture under the China’s harsh and biased judicial system. They justify their view by citing the case of Lam Wing Kee who, in 2015, was abducted, detained and charged by China with the allegation that he was operating a bookstore illegally in China. Mr. Lam was reported to have made the statement “I don’t trust the government to guarantee my safety, or the safety of any Hong Kong resident.”

This Extradition Bill comes amidst the growing Chinese influence in the governance of Hong Kong and also the increasing authoritative tendency of the Hong Kong government. Therefore, this Bill is widely viewed as another blow to the democratic rights of the people of Hong Kong.  

People from all walks of life have strongly opposed the Bill. The public unrest against the Bill which started as marches on street has turned uncontrollable with the protesters striking at the government headquarters and forcing the shutdown of the international airport for two days. Few road ways and tunnels were also shut down. The continued protest has completely paralysed Hong Kong, the international finance hub.

How has the government responded to the protests against the Bill?

Though initially the government refused to back down, the widespread nature of the protest compelled the government to reconsider its stand. On 15th June, 2019, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the present Chief Executive of Hong Kong, suspended the controversial Extradition Bill and on 9th July, she declared the Bill as dead. The Bill was formally withdrawn on 4th September 2019.

However, the withdrawal of the Bill has done little to pacify the protestors with them terming it as an action “too little, too late” and one of them commenting that “it is like applying band-aid on rotten flesh”. The protestors say that the withdrawal of bill will not compensate the blood and tears of the protestors.

These statements imply that the public resentment is not just about the Bill anymore but about the threats against the larger democratic rights of the people of Hong Kong as a result of the increasing Chinese influence. Due to the continued disappointment and unrest among the people, Ms.Lam suggested “to replace conflicts with conversation”.

What has been the response of the international community?

The US and other Western countries have extended their support to the Hong Kong protestors and have called for a peaceful resolution of the issue.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, said “Democrats and Republicans continue to stand united with the people of Hong Kong in demanding the hopeful, free and democratic future that is their right.” The US is also looking forward to expedite the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Bill, a bipartisan Bill, the stated objective of which is “to renew the historical commitment of the United States to uphold freedom and democracy in Hong Kong at a time when its autonomy is increasingly under assault.”

The British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, asked China to grant basic freedom to Hong Kong. Hunt warned China of severe consequences if it did not respect the Sino-British Joint Declaration, 1984, which enshrined the “one country, two systems” principle.

Beijing has not taken this external support for the protestors very well. It views them as unnecessary interferences by external actors which have only encouraged the protestors to continue with the chaotic situation. Beijing sees the current crisis as an internal issue which it wants to deal with internally without any external meddling.

What are the human rights concerns that the public protests in Hong Kong raise?

Human Rights in Hong Kong are enshrined in the Basic law and the Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap. 383). It is generally perceived that the people of Hong Kong enjoy greater civil liberties than those in mainland China. However, there is a concern over freedom of assembly in Hong Kong as it has been restricted by the Public Order Ordinance.

Unfortunately, the ongoing civilian protests have witnessed gross human rights violations. It is reported that the police authorities are using harsh power to suppress the protestors. This disproportionate use of power by the police muzzles the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and assembly. It also puts into jeopardy the principle of participatory democracy.

It is been argued that human rights violation in Hong Kong is a failure of the ‘one country, two systems’ rule.

What are the demands of the protestors?

Hong Kong has been witnessing continued mass protests for the past few months now and it has resulted into chaos, public unrest and major political predicament. The frustrated protestors have been demanding the following:

  • The controversial Extradition Bill must be withdrawn
  • The Chief Executive, Ms. Lam, must resign
  • The government must retract its characterisation of violent clashes as “riots”
  • There must be full independent inquiry into the actions of the police.
  • All those who are arrested in connection with the clashes must be unconditionally freed.

Though the first demand has been fulfilled, Ms. Lam has refused to fulfil the other demands of the protestors so far.

The way forward…

Over the years, China has been trying to undermine the autonomy that is guaranteed to Hong under the “one country, two systems” rule. The Extradition Bill is just another example of China attempting to meddle into the internal affairs of Hong Kong. Therefore, the present public outrage in Hong Kong is a show of resistance to not only the Extradition Bill but also to the repeated attempts of China to suppress the democratic rights of the people of Hong Kong. Therefore, this movement has the potential to decide the future of Hong Kong’s democracy and autonomy.

As rightly said by a report, “there is no reward to be gained by silence on the Hong Kong conundrum”. Significant support for peaceful resolution will reassure the people of Hong Kong that what they are doing is right and this will lead to a good outcome.

Therefore, the international community must come out in strong support of the people of Hong Kong who are fighting for justice and democratic rights. They want a bright future for their country with proper governance. Compromise and wise decisions would be the contributing factors for peace in the present conditions.

-This article is brought to you in collaboration with Rutuja Gujar from Sandip University, Nashik.

US-China Trade War: Effects on Indian Economy

Reading time: 3-4 minutes.

Chinese and American administrations have been at loggerheads for over a year now, failing to come to a consensus on trade issues. Ever since coming to power, Mr. Trump has time and again pointed out the heavy tariffs imposed by the Chinese on US goods. The Chinese administration too has been wary of Trump’s statement. Be that as it may, trade-related tension between the two economies has reached a war scale.

 Last year, Washington raised tariffs on $200 billion worth Chinese goods to 25% from 10%. Beijing retaliated with tariff on US goods. As the clouds of uncertainty gather, this post is an attempt to examine the possible repercussion of China’s trade war on Indian economy.

Is US-China trade war a blessing in disguise for India?

According to the trade experts, a new window of opportunity is emerging for Indian goods amid rising tension between the two gigantic economies. As per the recent reports, Washington is looking forward to replace Chinese exports with Indian products.

The high import duty imposed by Beijing has substantially affected the price of US goods. According to a study, as many as 203 Indian goods have an outright advantage of replacing Chinese exports to US. 

Surprisingly, China also is taking keen interest on opening larger avenues for Indian goods in its market. The reason behind such willingness of Beijing can be traced to the slow economic growth in the second quarter—6.2%, slowest in 27 years.

Even as the Chinese officials suffice the people of China with their rhetoric, fact remains that Beijing’s mammoth economy which used to strive on cheap labour and high volumes of export has started to slump. And in the process of damage control, Beijing is providing better access to Indian goods.

According to FIEO (Federation of Indian Export Organisations) President Ganesh Kumar Gupta, India’s export to Washington has risen sharply at 11.2% in the year 2018, while export to China showed significant growth at 31.4% in the same year. These stats bear testimony to the benefit ensuing from the trade war.

How can we Indians embrace this opportunity?

The Indian Government ought to adopt a meticulous action plan in order to benefit from the trade war. On the top of the list, New Delhi can increase its export to China and reduce the trade deficit which cropped up to $50 billion last year in a total trade of $71.5 billion.

Another imperative element is that China will strive towards replacing the US hegemony over software industry. India can be the alternative that China is looking for, be that as it may, it will an uphill task for Indian software industry to match the pedigree of US. However, the promise shown by the Indian software industry allows us to bear hope.

Challenges ahead…

While India is benefiting from the trade war between the two giants, it cannot stay immune from the aftermath of trade war. Noel Quinn, chief executive of global commercial banking at HSBC, mooted an interesting point that is pertinent to Indian economy.

He articulated that India will benefit from the trade war if investment that would have otherwise gone to China comes to India. However, he was quick to point that the potential for the negative impact cannot be ruled out as in its aftermath trade war will impact world trade dramatically and by extension, global growth of GDP.

In conclusion…

Perhaps, it is too soon to evaluate the complete outcome as the trade war will have further repercussion on the global economy, pushing it into greater abyss. But as far as Indian economy is concerned, the ramification of the trade war will depend upon the meticulous planning of the government and on India’s ability to meet demand and supply in the international market.