Everyone needs a bit of entertainment – even if you are on a disputed island in the South China Sea.
China this weekend opened what it called a state-of-the-art cinema hall in Sansha, a city it formed on Woody Island, the largest of the disputed Paracel Islands, from where it administers the area and has a military garrison.
The Sansha Yinlong Cinema screened the movie The Eternity of Jiao Yulu to more than 200 residents and soldiers on its first day, the state-run Xinhua news agencyreported.
Xinhua said the new theatre would screen at least one film every day so the island’s residents, estimated at about 2,000, “can enjoy films simultaneously with moviegoers across the country”.
The South China Morning Post added there were also plans to screen films for free on more islands within the municipality with portable digital projectors.
The opening of the cinema is part of a plan by local authorities to establish community services on the disputed islands, the China Global TV Network said.
China’s ‘newest city’
In April last year, China opened a public library in Sansha, in addition to a stadium, which hosts cultural events, to enrich the lives of residents.
Sansha, which Chinese media describe as its “newest city”, also has a school, police station and a court.
The news is unlikely to be well received in Vietnam or Taiwan. Both also claim the area, which has been under Beijing’s control since a short war with South Vietnam in 1974.
Vietnam has repeatedly protested against China’s decision to establish the administrative city.
The new cinema is just the latest in a raft of soft approaches China has taken to bolster its claim to the oil-rich area.
In 2013, it began running tourism cruises to the disputed islands.
Sansha’s mayor, Xiao Jie, has more ambitious plans for the city as well, Japan’s The Mainichi has reported.
“We will build wedding halls and diving facilities, and aim to create resorts comparable to those on the Maldives in the Indian Ocean,” Xiao Jie has said.
The theatre and amenities could help residents and soldiers “take their minds off the simmering dispute”, The Japan Times adds.
Reporting by Pratik Jakhar
China has opened a state-of-the-art movie theater on disputed Woody Island in the South China Sea’s Paracel group in an effort to improve quality of life for the roughly 200 residents and military personnel on the tiny landmass.
China has opened a state-of-the-art movie theater on disputed Woody Island in the South China Sea’s Paracel group in an effort to improve quality of life for the roughly 200 civilians and military personnel on the tiny landmass.
The Yinlong Cinema that opened Saturday is China’s southernmost permanent standing movie house, according to Chinese media reports. It’s the latest in a series of measures aimed at establishing a more concrete presence in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety.
The chairman of the Hainan Media Group, Gu Shaoqing, was quoted in media reports as saying the Yinlong, or “Silver Dragon,” would show at least one feature daily.
“In this way, island residents can enjoy the same cinema service enjoyed by people in other parts of China,” Gu was quoted as saying.
The theater can show movies in 3-D and its equipment is portable, allowing it to be transported to other nearby islands as needed.
Taiwan and Vietnam also claim the 2.6-square kilometer (1-square mile) island, known as Yongxingdao in Chinese, the largest in the Paracel group, which lies to the north of the even more hotly contested Spratly chain.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Stethem sailed within 12 nautical miles (32 kilometers) of Triton Island in the Paracel Group in an operation affirming the right to passage and challenging what the U.S. considers China’s excessive territorial claims in the area. China accused the U.S. of trespassing in its territorial waters and sent ships to intercept the destroyer.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
AUSTRALIA OPPOSES CHINA’S ISLAND-MAKING PROJECT
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said during a visit to India that her country continues to oppose China’s efforts to reclaim and develop man-made islands in the South China Sea.
However, in her speech Tuesday to a forum in New Delhi, Bishop appeared to discourage direct confrontation.
“Our objective must be to encourage China to exercise its economic and strategic weight in a way that respects the sovereign equality of states, that upholds and strengthens the rules-based order and that benefits all countries and peoples,” Bishop said.
She urged the six governments that claim territory in the strategically vital waterway to respect international laws and dispute resolution mechanisms, especially the United Nation’s Convention on the Law of the Sea, using them to “guide behavior and resolve disputes.”
“This is how countries in our region need to resolve disputes, including in the South China Sea, and we continue to oppose the construction of artificial reefs and militarization of those structures in the South China Sea,” Bishop said.
Australia is a close U.S. ally and backed Washington in its use of freedom of navigation operations and other measures to challenge Beijing’s attempts to dominate the waterway through which an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes annually.
China has denounced U.S. alliances in Asia as outdated vestiges of the Cold War, and in 2013, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi lit into Bishop at a meeting over Australia’s backing of Washington’s criticism of China’s attempts to assert control over a huge chunk of airspace over the East China Sea.
China’s island-building campaign has been seen by some as a precursor to a similar Chinese move in the South China Sea, although Beijing says it will proceed based on need and perceived threats to its interests.