HK activists protest against Scarborough Shoal standoff


HONG KONG — A group of Hong Kong activists protested outside the Philippine consulate office Thursday against a standoff near the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, reiterating China’s sovereignty claim over the reef since the 1200s in a monthlong territorial row with the Philippines.

In an open letter to Philippine authorities, seven members of a group dedicated to the cause reasserted that the Scarborough Shoal has been part of China’s territory since 1279 during the Yuan Dynasty. They also accused the Philippines of disrupting Chinese fishermen’s operations in the area and of inciting anti-China demonstrations among Filipinos.

“From a historical and legal perspective, the Scarborough Shoal is doubtlessly part of China’s territory,” the protesters said, before handing the letter to the Philippine consulate.

China and the Philippines have overlapping territory in the 150 square-kilometer reef that lies 126 nautical miles west of Subic Bay.

China has sent more than 30 ships to the area near the reef since the dispute erupted about a month ago when Philippine forces boarded eight Chinese fishing vessels and confiscated their catch.

Hong Kong and the Philippines had been on good terms until August 2010, when eight Hong Kong tourists were killed on a bus hijacked by a former Filipino police officer.

Hong Kong has since maintained a “black” alert for travel to the Philippines, warning local people not to go to that country.

Meanwhile, China News Service reported Friday that the Philippine side has resumed contact with China’s embassy in Manila and has taken diplomatic initiatives to ease tensions with China over the disputed Scarborough Shoal.

A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said he welcomed Manila’s proposals. However, Beijing will continue to closely monitor developments and watch Manila’s moves, he said.