Diaoyu Islands

Diaoyu activists all at sea after go-ahead

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2007, 12:00am

Activists planning to sail to the disputed Diaoyu Islands were finally given the go-ahead to launch their voyage yesterday after several days of delays and red tape forced them to postpone their journey.

But following a meeting by the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands last night, organisers would not reveal when, or even if, the trip would be made.

The expedition, which was originally scheduled to set sail yesterday, was abandoned in a late decision on Monday night by the committee, after government maritime officers suspended its certificate of survey because of illegal alterations made to the vessel.

The Marine Department had reinstated the boat's certificate of survey - which indicates that a vessel meets the minimum requirements to sail - by 3pm yesterday, after satisfying itself that the changes, including 16 metal plates installed on both sides of the boat, had been removed.

The decision to suspend the certificate has irritated committee members, who described the department as being 'utterly irresponsible'.

Committee chairman Raymond Chan To-wai said the Marine Department had been fully aware of the condition of the secondhand vessel, Diaoyu Islands II, for more than two weeks, adding that there were no reasons for the suspension notice to be issued just before the boat was due to set off.

'We can feel the oppression by the government towards our voyage,' he said. 'All kinds of minor excuses are used as stumbling blocks to our expedition.'

Lo Chau, commander of the voyage this year, said he could sense a 'U-turn' of government's attitude towards their trip compared with last year's voyage.

'It is absolutely unreasonable and shameless to deliberately obstruct our movement to protect Chinese territories. In fact, the voyage last year was even recognised by the central government,' he said.

He added that the changes were made in late June, but were removed before the suspension notice was served on Monday evening. 'But the department staff did not show up for an inspection and therefore we had to call off the voyage,' he said.

A Marine Department spokeswoman said the suspension of vessel's certificate was made to ensure maritime safety of other vessels and users at sea. 'The decision does not prejudice any parties,' she said.

She said it was too late to arrange an inspection on Monday and the department had reinstated the vessel's certificate after it passed an inspection yesterday.

Twenty activists have registered to take part in the voyage, initially scheduled for August 12 but postponed due to bad weather.