China: The Palestinian people’s use of force to resist foreign oppression is an inalienable right

We previously reported on the important statement made by Ma Xinmin, Legal Adviser to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, to the public sitting of the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Holland, on the Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, on February 22, 2024.

We now reprint the verbatim record of Ma’s statement, which deals with a number of key aspects of this question, strictly within the parameters of international law and in a comprehensive and forensic manner.

Ma begins by stating that:

“Dealing with the question of Palestine serves as a litmus test for the collective conscience of humanity, the wisdom of the United Nations and the authority of international law. The question of Palestine has persisted for over half a century, inflicting sufferings across generations. Countless Palestinians have been waiting in vain their entire lives, yet there remains no glimmer of hope in their efforts to restore the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

“China has consistently supported the just cause of the Palestinian people in restoring their legitimate rights. Chinese President Xi Jinping has stressed on multiple occasions that China calls for a comprehensive ceasefire and an early solution to the question of Palestine on the basis of the two-State solution through negotiation.”

Ma then proceeds to address the question as to whether the court, which was asked to give an advisory opinion by the United Nations General Assembly, has the relevant jurisdiction. He states: “The question of Palestine, with its origin in the mandate system under the League of Nations, goes beyond the scope of bilateral affairs between Palestine and Israel. It directly relates to the responsibility of the United Nations on international peace and security. The United Nations has a ‘permanent responsibility’ toward the question of Palestine.”

He then goes into detail regarding how Israel has been violating the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination:

“The Palestinian-Israeli conflict stems from Israel’s prolonged occupation of Palestinian territory and Israel’s long-standing oppression of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people’s fight against Israeli oppression and their struggle for completing the establishment of an independent State on the occupied territories are, essentially, just actions for restoring their legitimate rights. The right to self-determination serves as the precise legal foundation for their struggle.

“Self-determination of peoples is a fundamental principle of modern international law enshrined in the United Nations Charter and a collective human right under customary international law. In 1955, during the Bandung Conference, the Chinese Premier and Foreign Minister, Zhou Enlai, solemnly declared ‘full support of the principle of self-determination of peoples and nations as set forth in the [UN] Charter’ and ‘took note of the [UN] resolutions on the rights of peoples and nations to self-determination, which is a prerequisite of the full enjoyment of all fundamental Human Rights’ This declaration was fully incorporated into the Final Communiqué of the Bandung Conference.”

On this basis:

“The Palestinian people enjoy the right to self-determination, which includes five main aspects: first, the right to preserve territorial integrity; second, the right to maintain national unity, that is, the Palestinian people, in its group identity, collectively enjoys and exercises the right to self-determination; third, the right to freely determine their political status; fourth, the right to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development; fifth, the right to permanent sovereignty over natural wealth and resources.

“Every State is obliged to promote the realisation of the right to self-determination and to refrain from any forcible action which deprives peoples of that right. In their pursuit of the right to self-determination, these peoples have the right to engage in struggles, seek and receive support. On the basis of that right, the Palestinian people declared the establishment of the State of Palestine in 1988, which has been recognised by over 130 countries.

“In pursuit of the right to self-determination, the Palestinian people’s use of force to resist foreign oppression and to complete the establishment of an independent State is an inalienable right well founded in international law. Various peoples freed themselves from colonial rule and foreign oppression to realise independent statehood after World War II. Their practices serve as convincing evidence for this right. Numerous UNGA [United Nations General Assembly] resolutions recognise the legitimacy of struggling by all available means, including armed struggle, by peoples under colonial domination or foreign occupation to realise the right to self-determination. For instance, the UNGA resolution 3070 of 1973 ‘reaffirms the legitimacy of the people’s struggle for liberation from colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation by all available means, including armed struggle’.”

This, Ma insists, should not be confused with terrorism: “Armed struggle in this context is distinguished from acts of terrorism. It is grounded in international law. This distinction is acknowledged by several international conventions. For example, Article 3 of the Organisation of African Unity Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism of 1999 provides that ‘the struggle waged by peoples in accordance with the principles of international law for their liberation or self-determination, including armed struggle against colonialism, occupation, aggression and domination by foreign forces shall not be considered as terrorist acts’.”

He then moves on to issues of international law relating to the occupation:

“In China’s view, the question of the Occupied Palestinian Territory involves both the legality of the occupation per se and the legality of Israel’s acts during the occupation. These two aspects are governed by distinct legal frameworks…

“The principle of non-use of force is at the core of jus ad bellum [the conditions under which States may resort to war or to the use of armed force in general]. As a corollary of this principle, the prohibition on the acquisition of territory by force is firmly established in customary international law. Using force to occupy and maintain such occupation for the purposes of territorial acquisition or annexing an occupied territory by force in whole or in part, is each illegal…

“Israel’s occupation has been explicitly recognised as unlawful by several United Nations resolutions…

“China is of the view that the temporary and non-sovereign nature of belligerent occupation means that an occupying Power cannot acquire sovereignty over the territory during the belligerency. Belligerent occupation, under any circumstances, does not have the effect of lawful annexation…

“Fifty-seven years have passed since Israel began its occupation of the Palestinian territory. Regardless of the duration of the occupation, the unlawful nature of the occupation and the sovereignty over the occupied territories remain unchanged.”

These points have particular bearing on the question of East Jerusalem (as well as of Syria’s Golan Heights) as well as the illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories.

Concluding, Ma stated that “justice has been long delayed, but it must not be denied.”

China’s position was welcomed by the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas. According to the Jerusalem Post, its politburo member in charge of international relations Osama Hamdan said in a statement:

“We also appreciate the position expressed by the People’s Republic of China, and its emphasis on the legality of the occupied peoples’ pursuit of self-determination, by various means, including armed resistance, and the necessity not to confuse terrorism with the armed struggle practiced by the Palestinian people against the Zionist occupation.”

The below text was originally published by the International Court of Justice. Ma Xinmin’s statement can also be viewed on UN Web TV.

Continue reading China: The Palestinian people’s use of force to resist foreign oppression is an inalienable right