Dr. Kai Kei MIU is a research assistant professor in the School of Biomedical Sciences and an affiliated member for the Institute of Tissues Engineering and Regenerative Medicine, CUHK. He had received local PhD training in cancer pharmacology coupled to an internship in biochemistry at Cambridge. His research focuses on gene-editing technologies and the pathophysiology for endocrine disorders instigated by genetic and epigenetic defects. As an advocate for inter-disciplinary exchange and peer mentorship, he is currently a candidate for the Juris Doctor programme at CUHK specialized in patenting and copyright issues. He had also served as the senior resident tutor for several years at the International House in the university.
Treaties and pacta sunt servanda – a shared concept for the PRC?
The doctrine of pacta sunt servanda (agreements must be kept) is the central clock piece for all treaty obligations. It holds the understanding and willful mindset that treaties will be kept and adhered to as the basis for their binding nature. Mutual recognition and consent had shaped the contemporary international relations for all signatories of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969 (VCLT).
While signatories observe the doctrine of pacta sunt servanda in most situations, some suggest that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has shown increasing reluctance to abide by treaty provisions. Indeed, pacts ratified decades ago by the PRC concerning its sovereignty and jurisdiction in East Asia are still subject to debates as of now. Arguably, unilateral declarations made by the PRC revoked its consent to these “historical documents”. Meanwhile, there remain some other historic pacts that the PRC honours would delimit its border. There seems to be a difficulty in reconciling the doctrine of pacta sunt servanda with the PRC’s selective compliance towards the pacts.
The issue at the heart of the study is, with reference to recent disputed events, to analyse whether a response to changing circumstances is the ideal counterclaim to the doctrine of pacta sunt servanda in contemporary China, and if affirmative, to examine how rigid compliance to all historic pacts may, the better or worse, redefine international relations.