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Sansha city created to boost China's maritime rights


06-17-2014 03:25 BJT

The South China Sea -- a fishing paradise.

But it’s also a flash point for maritime disputes.

He Zhuang and 10 other Chinese fishermen were detained by the Philippine police, while fishing in waters off China’s Half Moon Shoal on May 6th.

30 days after his release, the memories are still painful.

"The Filipinos fired gunshots at us and ordered us to squat down. They then took all of us away from the ship. We were so scared and we didn’t know when we could return home," He Zhuang said.

As territorial frictions with neighboring countries over the islands continue to heat up, China established Sansha city in 2012, to strengthen its foothold.

Based on Yongxing Island, the city provides an outpost to help safeguard the country’s maritime rights and interests.

The name Sansha means three sandbanks, a reference to the Chinese names for the island chains of the West, Middle and South banks of the vast waters of the South China Sea. The establishment of the city is part of China’s administrative plan and long-term strategy in the area’s disputed waters.

Sansha’s first mayor Xiao Jie has the urgent, challenging task of protecting his jurisdiction.

He believes one of the most effective means in defending the country’s maritime rights, is to strengthen civil law enforcement.

"The designation of Sansha city bears far-reaching strategic significance. Through Sansha’s administration, China can better protect its sovereign rights, maintain the stability of the waters, and carry out effective protection and rational exploitation of the resources," Xiao Jie said.

China claims its southernmost boundary is at Zengmu Ansha, or James Shoal, at four degrees north latitude.

Sansha’s jurisdiction covers some 2 million square kilometers of water. Some 2,000 Chinese fishermen make their living in the South China Sea. And most of them belong to the local militia.

Patrolling the disputed waters is now routine. This is to prevent Chinese fishermen from being harassed by foreign ships. He Zhuang hopes the nine villagers still detained in the Philippines will also be released. He’s counting on the Sansha government to protect their legal rights.

"We will continue fishing at Half Moon Shoal, because it’s China’s territory. Plus, the waters in that area are good for fishing," He Zhuang said.

He Zhuang says they will support the Sansha government in the efforts to safeguard sovereignty in the South China Sea. And they are determined to fish in even tougher waters ahead.

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