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Ms. Yuen Man Yin Ada

YUEN Man Yin, Ada earned her master’s degree in Linguistics and English Language Teaching in CUHK. She is a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS). She has acquired extensive compliance and customer due diligence experience in international banks.

In 2018, she started the Juris Doctor program in CUHK and is currently a pre-penultimate final year student. Her interests in the legal field include public law, comparative law, contract law, tort law and criminal law.

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 Arguably, unilateral declarations made by the PRC revoked its consent to these “historical documents”.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