A Construction Project in Sanya Sea Territory Considered Illegal

Author: GS   雨人

On June 16, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of Hainan Province ruled against a construction project of new airport in the Sanya sea territory. In August 2016, two local construction companies failed to acquire authorization before building a tourism and trade zone in the Hongtangwan bay. It was illegal to start such construction without submitting a report regarding any impacts on the ocean environment. That behavior violates the provisions of the first paragraph of Article 47 of the Law of Marine Environmental Protection of the People’s Republic of China.

Based on the Law of Marine Environment Protection of the People’s Republic of China, the local government ordered the two companies to halt construction immediately and restore the area to its original status. Meanwhile It also imposed a fine of ¥80 million RMB (equipment to $11.3 million US dollars), which was 4% of the total construction project investment .

Two important facts were not disclosed in the news.

Firstly The Sanya New Airport is developed by HNA Group as well as Hainan government. It’s obvious that Hainan government and officials are the beneficiaries of this project. Large-scale infrastructure projects will usually drive local GDP and pave the way for the promotion of local officials. Meanwhile, government officials could use their power to request and acquire huge personal benefits from them by colluding with construction companies. Therefore, as beneficiaries, local governments and officials are driven to smooth the progress of the project. It’s likely that they would sacrifice the interests of other people for the sake of money. HNA Group’s project was thus able to proceed smoothly without following the approval procedures.

Furthermore, let us think about it from another aspect. This airport was built by HNA Group. HNA Group is owned by Wang Qishan, the Vice President of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). There’s no double that HNA Group is capable of achieving anything they want under Wang Qishan’s wing. However, why did the State Oceanic Administration disapprove this project? Were there any political factors behind this? Even more interesting is the rejection decision being made in July 2017. What took so long for the Hainan local government to issue a penalty decision almost three years later? Does this imply that Wang Qishan’s influence has severely decreased in Hainan? Let us stay tuned and see what happens next.

Apart from the aforementioned crucial facts relating to the illegality of the construction project in the Sanya sea territory, this ruling reminded us of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. In 2018, a U.S. military aircraft entered the airspace of South China Sea followed by warnings on trespassing China’s territory. Based on the findings of the U.S. surveillant flight, the CCP had already completed a significant amount of construction and turned the islands into its military base1.  An international tribunal dismissed the CCP’s claim on its sovereignty rights over the islands due to its lack of historical rights to the islands2. However, the CCP ignored the ruling and its military base is still operating in the area today. The ruling by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of Hainan Province confirmed its position on the illegality of constructing airports in the sea area without getting approved. However, the CCP not only constructed military base in the international territory, but also claimed its sovereign rights on the islands. The CCP creates its own rules and takes actions at will for the ultimate goal of maximizing self-interest. Its contempt of the international law is not acceptable.


  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/20/world/asia/south-china-sea-navy.html
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-36772813


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