The Beijing Convention: the Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts


Under the background of modernizing and reinforcing the global governance system reinforcing the legal framework for aviation security, the
Convention on
the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Relating to International Civil
(hereafter referred as the ‘Beijing Convention’), which is the first international aviation convention named after China’s capital, came into force in July 2018.

An important achievement in international aviation security law, the new international treaty offers a legal basis for criminalizing counter-terrorism and other criminal acts that target civil aviation. On 7 December 2018, the Forum of Aviation Law concerning the Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Relating to International Civil Aviation was successfully held in Xi’an, China.

The Forum was jointly hosted by the Civil Aviation Administration of China
and the Northwest
University of Political Science and Law
. It was organized by the Research Center of International Law of the NWUPL, the International Cooperation and Service Center of the CAAC, and Institute of International Law of Wuhan University.  The Beijing Convention discussions throughout the Forum furthered legal research on the link between the Beijing Convention and Chinese national legislation, with a view to promoting the practice of aviation security;  improving the aviation law system; and to forwarding China’s ratification of the Beijing Convention.

More than 150 representatives from ICAO, the CAAC, airlines, aviation manufacturers, and aviation law professionals, attended the Forum.  Special guests included Mr. Lv Erxue (Deputy Director of the CAAC), Mr. Chen Guoqiang (Vice Governor of Shaanxi Province), Ms. Dong Chaojie (Deputy Director of the Fourth Legislative Bureau of the Ministry of Justice), Mr. Huang Jiefang (ICAO Director of Legal Affairs and External Relations Bureau), Mr. Sylvain Lefoyer (ICAO Deputy Director of Aviation Security and Facilitation, Air Transport Bureau), and Mr. Yang Zongke (President of the NWUPL). Mr. Wei Yajun, Safety Inspector of the CAAC, hosted the opening ceremony.

With the rapid development of the aviation transport industry, ICAO and its Member States had previously concluded three traditional conventions in the 1960s and 1970s that were widely recognized by the international community: the Tokyo Convention, the Hague Convention and the Montreal Convention.

These Conventions established the basic framework for the international convention system on aviation security and counter-terrorism. China actively participated in this international cooperation by compiling the international convention and conducting relevant, responsible research. Additionally, China has been contributing to the sound development of the air transportation industry; to ensuring a safe and convenient transportation system; and to protecting the safety of people’s lives and property.

During his speech at the Forum, Mr. Lv Erxue, Deputy Director of the CAAC, noted the Chinese civil aviation community’s support of ICAO’s work in the field of aviation security and that they fully implement ICAO’s Global Aviation Security Plan. He expressed the CAAC’s willingness to thoroughly study the key legal issues; promote the process of ratification; and guarantee the effective implementation of the Beijing Convention, through exchanges and cooperation with domestic and foreign well-known research institutions, experts and scholars inside and outside the aviation industry.

Recalling the signing of the Beijing Convention during the Diplomatic Conference on Aviation
that was held in Beijing eight years prior, Mr. Lv noted that representatives from 76 States and observers from four international organizations discussed the modernization of the Hague Convention and the Montreal Convention and its protocol. The 2010 Conference adopted the Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Relating to International Civil Aviation, and the Protocol Supplementary to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, i.e., the Beijing Convention and the Beijing Protocol.

The Beijing Convention incorporates the new and evolving principles and achievements of the United Nations anti-terrorism convention, reflecting the development trend of the international anti-terrorism convention. In considering recent criminal activities, the treaty fills the gaps and reverses the deficiencies of the previous convention. The Beijing Convention provides effective means and strong legal protection against counter-terrorism threats to civil aviation. With its strong repercussions, the treaty has been ratified by 26 States.

Over the past 30 years, China has participated in formulating and revising several civil aviation conventions. The topics discussed during last week’s Forum highlighted problems and challenges that require further research and legal review. The discussions included the application of key provisions of the Beijing Convention and their links with China’s current laws, legal regulation on unruly passenger behavior, and countermeasures and policy development on new problems of aviation security such as the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and conflict zones.

Expressing the desire that the Chinese legal practices on civil aviation will contribute to the development of international laws and standards and provide solutions, Mr. Lv noted that China has approved and acceded to 26 important multilateral conventions on international civil aviation. Additionally, the Chinese civil aviation community remains committed to tracking, learning and researching  international civil aviation laws.

The Vice Governor of Shaanxi Province, Mr. Chen Guoqian, reminded attendees that ‘The conclusion of the Beijing Convention is a high recognition of the competitiveness and position of China’s civil aviation by the international community”. He noted that the Beijing Convention is the first convention named after China’s capital, and that it reflects the high internationalization of China’s civil aviation and the leading position on the legal research on the aviation security. He also noted that it is an important achievement in terms of cooperating economically with other States.’

Mr. Chen drew attention to the civil aviation industry in Shaanxi Province, which had developed rapidly in recent years. Building a prosperous, strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious and modern State requires the support of advanced system of transportation. With the strong support of the CAAC, Shaanxi Province continues to increase domestic flights and open new intercontinental routes. The total passenger and cargo transportation volume of Shaanxi civil aviation has maintained a growth rate of more than 10% in recent years, and the development trend is gratifying. Mr. Chen expressed his hope that the civil aviation industry would help Shaanxi Province to build a gateway to the airport, creating a new starting point for the ‘Air Silk Road’, and making greater contributions to Shaanxi’s new chapter of development.

In her presentation, Ms. Dong Chaojie, the Deputy Director of the Fourth Legislative Bureau of the Ministry of Justice, drew attention to air transport as a target for terrorist activities due to its characteristics of fast speed, large coverage and wide range of influence. She noted that the Beijing Convention is a forward-looking, strong response to new threats since the ‘9/11’ terrorist attack.

The current Chinese legislation that includes Civil Aviation Laws, the Regulation on Civil Aviation Security and relevant ministerial regulations, has established a basic regime for the security of civil aviation. These security systems and checks, passports for airport control areas, special guards for garrisoned aircraft, and special supervision of cargo and baggage have played an important role in the safe and steady development of China’s civil aviation industry.

She further noted that the Ministry of Justice in China is working to forward the revision of the Civil Aviation Law of China. The key issues, topics that were discussed in the Forum, included international civil aviation security policies, the Beijing Convention its implementation, as well as the revision of the Civil Aviation Law and safety supervision of UAV, will further improve the civil aviation security regime as China revises Civil Aviation Laws. It will also help reduce security risks and ensure the safe operation of civil aviation.

The Forum is the first academic conference that was organized in China after the Beijing Convention entered into force. In support of international air law research, the NWUPL was renamed its Institute of Air and Space Law the ‘Bin Cheng Institute of Air Law and Space Law’ in 2017. Last year the NWUPL also established the ‘Cheng Tien-Hsi International Law and Bin Cheng Aviation Law Library’ in recognition of the achievements in international air law achieved by Professor Wang Han and other research fellows of  ‘Bin Cheng Institute of Air Law and Space Law’.

Additional speeches during the opening ceremony included Mr. Wang Han, former Vice President of the NWUPL, who provided the keynote speech and hosted the interactive session. Mr. Huang Jiefang, ICAO Director of Legal Affairs and External Relations Bureau, who gave a presentation on ‘New Developments in Aviation Security’, and Mr. Sylvain Lefoyer, ICAO Deputy Director of Aviation Security and Facilitation, Air Transport Bureau, gave a speech on ‘The Situation and Policy on the International Aviation Security’. Both responded to questions raised by the participants of the conference, discussions that day included these four issues:

  • the Application of Key Provision of the Beijing Convention and their links with Chinese relevant laws;
  • the Legal Rules for Regulating Unlawful Interference by Unruly Passengers;
  • the International Cooperation on Aviation Security and Legal Response to Legal Risks of Civil Aviation; and
  • the Safety Supervision of UAS and New Developments of International Aviation Security Law

About the Contributor

The Civil Aviation Administration of China, formerly the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China, is the aviation authority under the Ministry of Transport of the People’s Republic of China. The core functions carried out by the CAAC in their work to ensure regional, national and global flight and ground safety are outlined here