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Court orders firm to restore sea's original state
By Liu Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-12-16 00:58

The Beijing High People's Court yesterday reaffirmed the punishment doled out by the State Oceanic Administration against a company in East China's Shandong Province, which illegally filled in3.8 hectares of the sea.

The Rongcheng Haida Shipbuilding Company Ltd had been authorized by the local planning commission in March 2001 to fill in 18,700 square metres of ocean, according to the court, but failed to ask permission from the Weihai city government for the right to complete the project.

The city government was the only authority in the region with the rights for the sea-filling project, according to a contemporary sea area regulation issued by the State Oceanic Administration and the Ministry of Finance in 1993.

The Haida Company began the endeavour in March 2001 without authorization, and in December of that year, the Shandong Provincial Oceanic Bureau and the Shandong Provincial Fishery Bureau issued a notice, requiring all units using sea areas under the jurisdiction of Shandong Province to put forward applications to acquire authorizations.

But the Haida Company failed to comply.

The State Oceanic Administration decided in 2003, after completing a survey, that Haida illegally used the 3.8 hectares of sea.

The administration ordered the company to return the ocean to its original state.

A penalty of 513,000 yuan (US$62,000) was also ordered to be paid, according to the Marine Belt Law, which went effective in 2002, according to the administration.

Yesterday's judgment was final, maintaining the original sentence made by the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court in September.

The company declined to honour the judgment for first instance and appealed to the Beijing High People's Court in September.

"We are unable to enforce the judgment since it will cost us another 30 million yuan (US$3.6 million) after we have invested 30 million yuan in the project," sources with the company said yesterday at court.

The company also doubted whether the Marine Belt Law should have been the legal basis of the judgment.

"Even if our behaviour of filling in the sea was illegal, we should be punished by the regulation in 2001 when we did so, instead of the law which went into effect one year later," the company said.

The firm argued in court that the sea is large, and "we only used 3.8 hectares. What is wrong?"

"Illegal behaviours of the company continued until 2002 since 2001," officials with the oceanic administration said yesterday at court.

"Thus, the law will of course punish the company for its continuously filling in the sea," officials said.

The amount of fine was fixed at 15 times of the two-year usage fees of the 3.8 hectares, 4,500 yuan (US$5,400) per hectare per year, said sources with the administration.

"Either investment or technology cannot be an excuse by the company not to resume the sea area to its original appearance," the administration said.

The case is the first ever administrative lawsuit involving the oceanic administration, sources said.

"The ecological environment and function of sea were seriously damaged after the part of the sea was filled in," an official with the administration surnamed Li told China Daily yesterday.

According to Li, the lawsuit followed the actions by the administration last year to fight against illegal occupation of ocean areas.

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