China adopts land borders law amid regional tensions including friction with India

DailyTimes  |  Oct 25, 2021

BEIJING: China’s top legislature voted to adopt the country’s first national law on the protection and exploitation of the country’s land border areas, which aims to better maintain national security and manage border-related matters at the legal level amid regional tensions, including the frictions with India, said Chinese legal experts and internal affairs scholars told Global Times.

The Land Border Law, approved at the closing meeting of a legislative session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Saturday, stipulates that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China are sacred and inviolable. The state shall take measures to resolutely safeguard the territorial integrity and land border security, and guard against and combat any acts that undermine territorial sovereignty and land boundaries, the law emphasizes.

The law clarifies the leadership system, government responsibilities, and military tasks in territorial border work, the delineation, and surveying of land borders, the defense and management of land borders and frontiers, and the international cooperation on land border affairs. Citizens and organizations shall support border patrol and control activities, the law says. It specifies that neither organizations nor individuals can fly drones or build permanent structures near land borders without approval of Chinese authority.

It stipulates that weapons can be used against those who illegally cross borders to commit physical assault, resist arrest or engage in other violent activities. The enactment of the Land Border Law has filled the legal gap at the national level in dealing with border issues, said, Chinese legal experts. It is in line with the international legislative practice, they said. Due to historical reasons, disputes and ambiguities still exist inland border delineations at China-India borders and other border areas, Wang Xu, deputy dean of the School of Law under Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.

India has repeatedly tried to gain from provoking the border issue with China since the ‘Galwan Valley’ clash in June 2020. Wang believes that the law will serve as a legal guideline for China in coping with all possible land border disputes, including the current specific territorial conflicts at China-India borders. “It provides an abundant legal foundation for China in dealing with border disputes with involved neighbors,” Wang said.

China has a land border of more than 22,000 kilometers and a coastline of over 18,000 kilometers. It surpasses most countries in the number of neighboring countries, the length of land border, and the complexity of maritime security. Therefore, it is a daunting task for China to safeguard its territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests, and national unity, according to a national defense white paper released by the State Council Information Office of China in 2019.

China has been actively tackling boundary issues with related countries on the basis of good-neighborliness and peaceful coexistence. It signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a Three-Step Roadmap with Bhutan earlier this month, which is the result of years of joint efforts and sincere cooperation between the two sides, and will reduce the risks on the eastern China-India border, observers noted. Taking effect from January 1, 2022, the law also regulates that national and regional governments are obligated to take measures to protect the stability of cross-border rivers and lakes, and rationally use the water [resources] there. Vessels and personnel shall receive inspection and get approval from relevant authorities before entering the rivers and lakes, it adds.

The law reiterates the friendly consultation and joint development [principles] that China adheres to on water resources of cross-border rivers, said Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University. “China upholds its legitimate rights and interests on the transboundary rivers, such as the Yarlung Zangbo River and Lancang-Mekong River, and is willing to collaborate in water resources utilization in these basins with involved South and Southeast Asian countries,” Qian told the Global Times.

The law underlines that China shall, following the principle of equality, mutual trust, and friendly consultation, handle land border related-affairs with neighboring countries through negotiations to properly resolve disputes and longstanding border issues. Cross-border cooperation zones on the economy, tourism, and ecological protection can be established with neighboring countries, the law says.

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