China’s new foreign state immunity law restricts applicable scenarios


BEIJING: China’s new foreign state immunity law, which was adopted on Friday by the country’s top legislature, confirmed that China’s policy has shifted to limited immunity in line with global norms and will be implemented in Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions.

Before mid-20th century, absolute state immunity represented a universal principle that any actions and properties of a foreign state are exempted from territorial jurisdiction. As states are increasingly the subjects of civil and commercial activities, many have adopted the principle of limited immunity.

China’s new law is also based on the principle of limited immunity, which differentiates a foreign state’s sovereign and non-sovereign activities, as well as sovereign and non-sovereign properties. Only sovereign activities and properties can be exempted from the country’s legal jurisdiction, the Xinhua News Agency reported, citing an official from the National People’s Congress.

Adapting to China’s ever-expanding foreign engagement, the law clarified that China’s foreign state immunity policy has shifted from absolute to limited immunity. Its formulation and implementation represent a key achievement in China’s foreign affairs legislation.

China’s foreign state immunity policy upholds the principle of sovereignty equality of states, and is distinct in nature from the long-arm jurisdiction practiced by certain countries, the NPC official noted.

The law helps safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens and legal persons, and facilitates high-level opening up; follows the principle of national sovereignty and equality, safeguarding China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests; fills the gaps in the legal system and accelerates the improvement of China’s foreign-related legal system; and offers full play to the functional role of judicial trials in foreign-related fields and improves judicial efficiency, according to the official.

According to the law, in the following scenarios immunity does not apply: the foreign state notified to subject to Chinese jurisdiction; lawsuits filed in commercial activities or labor contracts; compensation or arbitration cases caused by (a foreign state’s) infringement of rights.

The law underscores the role of China’s Foreign Ministry, which will issue evidence documents on whether a related party constitutes a sovereign state which the courts should adopt. On issues concerning core interests including foreign affairs, the ministry can issue advice to courts.

The law will not affect the immunity enjoyed by foreign commissions and related personnel, foreign heads of state and government leaders, foreign ministers in line with China’s law, international conventions China participated in and other international common practice.

The law stipulates a principle of reciprocity in state immunity. “Where the immunity granted by a foreign state to the People’s Republic of China and its property is inferior to that provided for by this law, the People’s Republic of China may apply the principle of reciprocity,” per the law.__Pakistan Today