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Mr. Lo Po Kan Noble

Po Kan LO completed his postgraduate degrees in English literature at HKU and the University of Oxford. He also obtained his Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and Harvard Certificate in Advanced Education Leadership. He served as an ambassador at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a member of the Senate at OUHK. He is presently a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Chartered Linguist of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. He is currently teaching at the College of Professional and Continuing Education of PolyU while reading for his JD at CUHK. His interest lies in comparative law. He presented his paper and wrote a column about EU and HK laws at the CUHK LAW’s Centre for Financial Regulation and Economic Development. His essay about the law on intoxication was published by the Law Reform Commission of Hong Kong in 2021.

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 Arguably, unilateral declarations made by the PRC revoked its consent to these “historical documents”.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.