A group of Philippine fishermen have asked the UN to stop China harassing them as they cast their nets around a disputed South China Sea shoal, their lawyer said yesterday.
The fishermen allege that China, which has controlled the Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island, 黃岩島) since a brief 2012 stand-off with the Philippines, is violating their right to livelihood by driving them away, lawyer Harry Roque said.
Signed by 30 fishermen, the petition was sent via e-mail to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and others in the organization in Geneva on Wednesday, he said.
“They are asking for a remedy. [What they want is] no one telling them where and when they can fish,” Roque said.
The situation was “very, very sad” he said, adding that some now must fish in shallow waters with little success, while their wives work abroad to support the family.
The shoal lies 220km off the main Philippine island of Luzon and 650km from Hainan, the nearest major Chinese land mass.
The Philippines says it is within its exclusive economic zone.
The government has lodged a separate appeal before a UN arbitration tribunal to declare China’s sovereignty claim over most of the South China Sea as illegal.
In April, Philippine authorities accused the China Coast Guard of robbing Philippine fishermen of their catch at gunpoint at Scarborough Shoal and shooing away one group with a water cannon.
In their petition, the fishermen cited another incident in April last year when Chinese authorities on speedboats and armed with assault rifles allegedly drove them away, shouting: “Go away, go away, three miles, China island.”
Taiwan also claims the shoal.
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