South China Sea Ruling and Defamation

The press conference of the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) following the South China Sea arbitration award was surely one of the lowest of many low points in China’s response to the arbitration Tribunal. Here is what’s reported, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang's Regular Press Conference on July 13, 2016:

“Q: Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told the press this morning that the then Philippine government gave bribes to judges of the Arbitral Tribunal, but did not go into details. Does the Chinese side believe that the bribes from the Philippines would make the judges rule in favor of them?

A: As we said before, the establishment of the Arbitral Tribunal has no legitimacy. It is illegal, and what it has done over the past couple of years was questionable. What Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said this morning was that the Arbitral Tribunal was not an international tribunal and had nothing to do with the UN-affiliated International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague. Judges of the ICJ and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea are paid by the UN to ensure their independence and impartiality. As for the five judges in this case, they made money, they were paid by the Philippines. I figure it necessary to make that clear.”

Of course, what constitutes libel or slander in one jurisdiction may not qualify in another (especially in China, where the source of the judges’ compensation guarantees their lack of independence!!). This MOFA reaction is based on so many distortions of the truth that the mind boggles but its implication certainly amounts to defamation in my eyes.

It would be good if the arbitrators, and even the Permanent Court of Arbitration that facilitated administration of the case, would file law suits against the PRC and its spokespersons in China and in some democratic countries where the defamation had effect, preferably including at least one Anglo-American country and one Continental European country in order to perfect this imaginative research experiment in comparative law!