BEIJING ( XINHUA) -- China on Saturday passed a new law to strengthen and govern its land borders amid the ongoing military tension along the disputed boundary with India.
The legislation formalises combining the military defence of China’s land borders with improving social and economic development in border areas.
It further strengthens the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) policy to work closely with civilians staying in border areas - for example, Tibetan villagers living along the border with India, Bhutan and Nepal - to work as the first line of defence.
Long-standing border disputes should be resolved through negotiations, the new law adds, according to Chinese official media.
India and China have been locked in a border row for 17 months, a phase that witnessed the deadly skirmish in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on 15 June 2020 when troops from both sides fought for hours with iron rods, clubs covered with barbed wire and rocks.
Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clash, the first fatalities on the Line of Actual Control since 1975; four Chinese soldiers were killed and one was injured as well.
China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC) on Saturday voted to adopt the “…new law on the protection and exploitation of the country’s land border areas, which will take effect on January 1, 2022”.
The state “…shall take measures to safeguard territorial integrity and land boundaries and guard against and combat any act that undermines territorial sovereignty and land boundaries”, it says.
The law stipulates that the state shall take measures to “…strengthen border defence, support economic and social development as well as opening-up in border areas, improve public services and infrastructure in such areas, encourage and support people’s life and work there, and promote coordination between border defence and social, economic development in border areas”.
The law “stipulates the relevant responsibilities” of the PLA, the armed militia, and local governments to support and coordinate border defence and management of areas at the border and the building of border infrastructure.
The law also lays down rules to support the construction of border towns and the management of rivers in the areas and land ports.
On the issue of resolving border disputes, the law says: “The state shall, following the principle of equality, mutual trust, and friendly consultation, handle land border related-affairs with neighbouring countries through negotiations to properly resolve disputes and longstanding border issues.”
Gao Jinlu, from the foreign affairs committee of the NPC was quoted as saying by state media, that the land border law establishes a standardised legal framework for managing China’s land border affairs.