China's research icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, sails against ice on its way to Zhongshan station in Antarctic, Dec. 20, 2017. Xuelong set sail from Shanghai, east China, on Nov. 8, beginning the country's 34th Antarctic expedition. Researchers will conduct preliminary work on China's fifth station in the Antarctic, which is one of the key objectives of this expedition. (Xinhua/Bai Guolong)
China's top legislature has listed the country's first Antarctic law into its legislation plan, a move that Chinese experts said will help protect China's future Antarctic development and interests amid an increasing amount of Chinese tourists heading to the area.
The 12th Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) on Wednesday approved a report from the Chinese Environment and Resources Protection Committee (ERPC) on making an Antarctic law and suggested the 13th Standing Committee include it into its legislation, the Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.
"China is internationally responsible by making an Antarctic law. The long-standing Antarctic Treaty and related agreements signed by various countries require consultative parties to make their own laws in an effort to better engage in protection of the area," Dong Yue, a research fellow at the Polar Research Institute of the Ocean University of China, told the Global Times on Thursday.
The Antarctic law could also help China protect its resource use and joint future development interests in the area, Dong said.
The ERPC said in the report to the Standing Committee of the NPC that better legal management is required as civilian activities in Antarctic areas increase and the Central Committee of the CPC and the State Council set new development goals in the Southern polar region.
According to the report, Antarctica is a new strategic region related to future national security and development. The State Oceanic Administration has actively promoted the legislative work by laying the foundation to make the Antarctic law.
"The Antarctic law, once it is passed, will also endow Chinese citizens and companies with more rights on development in the area as well as regulating their dealings there," Wang Wen, executive dean of Renmin University's Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, who also joined a journey to the Antarctic Pole in December, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Wang noted that no Chinese company has gained the required qualifications to organize cruises to the Antarctic or have airlines land on the area yet.
In recent years, more Chinese have been traveling to the two Polar regions - the Antarctic and Arctic - according to a document online travel agency Ctrip sent to the Global Times in early December.
"Over the past years China has played an active role in the development of the Antarctic and has been a leader in many fields, including scientific research. Moreover, China has always advocated for more equitable ways to safeguard the peaceful development and protection of the Antarctic," Dong said.
In May, China published its first full report on its undertakings in Antarctica over the past three decades, titled "China's Antarctic Activities."