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China backs sovereign immunity after US 9/11 bill becomes law

By Reuters - Oct 10,2016 - Last updated at Oct 10,2016

BEIJING — A country's domestic law should not supersede international law on anti-terrorism cooperation, China said on Monday, after the US Congress last month approved a bill that allows relatives of the victims of the September 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia.

Congress on September 28 overwhelmingly rejected President Barack Obama's veto of the "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act" (JASTA), the first veto override of his presidency, meaning the legislation will become US law.

Saudi Arabia, one of the United States' longest-standing allies in the Arab world, has said the law is a threat to a leading principle that has regulated international relations for hundreds of years preventing lawsuits against sovereign governments.

China's Foreign Ministry said it opposes all forms of terrorism and supports the international community on anti-terrorism cooperation, but that such efforts should respect international relations.

"China believes international anti-terrorism cooperation should... respect international law and principles of international relations, including fundamental principles of nations' sovereign equality," ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

"It should not put any country's domestic laws above international law and should not link terrorism with any specific country, religion or ethnicity," Geng told reporters at a regular press briefing.

He did not mention Saudi Arabia or the September 11 attacks.

China says its people and assets at home and around the world face a growing risk from terrorism, but also insists it follows a foreign policy of non-interference in other countries' affairs.


As China's state-owned enterprises have expanded their footprints abroad, China has frequently cited sovereign immunity in its defence when it has been the targets of law suits overseas, including in the United States.

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