BEIJING — An international tribunal in The Hague delivered a sweeping rebuke on Tuesday of China’s behavior in the South China Sea, from the
construction of artificial islands to interference with fishing, and ruled that its expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters had no legal
The tribunal also said that Beijing had violated international law by “causing severe harm to the coral reef environment” and by failing to
prevent Chinese fishermen from harvesting endangered sea turtles and other species “on a substantial scale.”
The landmark case, brought by the Philippines, was seen as an important crossroads in China’s rise as a global power. It is the first time the
Chinese government has been summoned before the international justice system, and neighboring countries have hoped that the outcome will provide a
model for negotiating with Beijing or for challenging its assertive tactics in the region.
“It’s an overwhelming victory. We won on every significant point,” the Philippines’ chief counsel in the case, Paul S. Reichler, said after
the decision was announced. “This is a remarkable victory for the Philippines.”
China, which refused to participate in the tribunal’s proceedings, has expressed defiance about the case, insisting for months that it would ignore
the decision and risk being labeled an international outlaw.
In a tough speech in Washington last week, a former senior Chinese official said that the findings would amount to no more than “waste paper” and
that China would not back down from its activities in the South China Sea even in the face of a fleet of American aircraft carriers.