MANILA – A former chief of Philippines corruption watchdog who had filed a complaint against the Chinese president at the International Criminal Court was held at an airport in Hong Kong on Tuesday, her lawyer said.
Conchita Carpio Morales, 78, was detained by the immigration authorities as she was being considered a threat to national security, Anne Marie Corominas, the lawyer, said in a statement
In March, Morales had filed a case against Xi Jinping at the ICC for crimes against humanity and causing ecological damage in the South China Sea.
The former chief anti-graft prosecutor, a very respected figure in the Philippines who retired last summer, traveled to Hong Kong from Manila, accompanied by her husband, son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.
However, it was only her who was detained on landing at the airport.
“How is a 78-year old former anti-corruption ombudswoman a security threat in HK-China,” asked Corominas.
“Is President Xi afraid of her? The only thing she did is to exercise her right as a Filipino citizen and file a communication before the International Criminal Court against President Xi,” added the lawyer, who was informed about the situation through a text message from Morales.
The former ombudsman, former Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and a group of fishermen affected by Chinese activities in the waters that falls under Manila’s dominion, had signed the complaint against Xi before the ICC.
They accused the Chinese president and other officials of crimes constituting “the most massive, near permanent and devastating destruction of the environment in humanity’s history” and affecting several nations, as China has forcefully occupied several islets and reefs disputed between several regional countries.
They claim that the environmental damage began when the Chinese government under Xi started a systematic plan to seize control of the South China Sea, an area which accounts for 12 percent of global fishing and through which 30 percent of the world’s trade passes, apart from housing possible oil and gas reserve.
The Philippines pulled out of the ICC on March 17 on the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, who stands accused in the same court for crimes against humanity related to his war on drugs.
However, the petitioners claim ICC has jurisdiction over the case because China’s activities were carried out when the Philippines was still a member of the court.
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan dispute the sovereignty of islands in the South China Sea, where Beijing has been building artificial islands on the reefs and atolls since 2012 to exercise de facto control over them.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in the matter in 2016, recognizing its sovereignty over several territories in the region, including Scarborough atoll and a section of the Spratly archipelago. But Beijing has refused to recognize the verdict.
Despite The Hague court ruling, China has continued its military activities in the area as Duterte has not made any claims in this regard after the president reoriented his foreign policy in favor of Beijing in return for Chinese investments.