A preparatoty committee was established yesterday to set up a local people's congress in a new Chinese city that will oversee disputed regions in the South China Sea.
The prefecture-level city of Sansha was established on June 21 in a move to claim sovereignty over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, the Macclesfield Bank undersea atoll and surrounding waters.
Sansha will operate under the province of Hainan , and the local government will be located on Woody Island, also known as Yongxing Island, in the Paracels, on which some 1,000 civilians live. Few, if any, of the other islands has a permanent civilian population.
Hainan news portal Hinews.cn said the provincial people's congress announced that the preparation committee would host elections for members of the Sansha People's Congress, which will have 60 members - all directly elected by the people of Sansha.
The local people's congress will, in turn, elect standing committee members, as well as a mayor, vice-mayor, head of an intermediate people's court and head of the local people's procuratorate. Analysts said the move showed that China was officially moving forwards with plans to form a government in Sansha.
Li Guoqiang a South China Sea expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noted that Sansha had yet to establish a people's congress, as required by national laws.
It is difficult to predict how long it will take to establish the people's congress, but Li said he believed it would happen fairly soon.
Wang Hanling , a maritime expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said facilities were already being upgraded for residents in the new city, including the building of public housing for fishermen. Earlier reports suggested that a military airport was being built on Woody Island.
Improved facilities would be needed to help cater to an expected increase in Sansha's population, he said, specifically citing the boon that would accompany a military command unit in the city. Prefecture-level cities are generally given army divisions of at least 6,000 military personnel.
China has made various moves in the past month to assert its sovereign rights in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. Following the establishment of Sansha city, the Ministry of Defence said on June 28 that it was reviewing the defence deployment for the new city.
4 sq km
The land area of the Spratlys' 100 or so islets, reefs, and sea mounts, spread over 415,000 square kilometres of sea
Source: CIA World Factbook