Mail for Diaoyu Islands ends up at small post office in northern Taiwan
Small post office in Taiwan handles letters addressed to islands; delivery is another matter
More than 60 items of mail have recently been posted to the non-existent residents of the Diaoyu Islands at No1 Diaoyutai Road, Tahsi neighbourhood, Toucheng township, Ilan county, Taiwan.
Chunghwa Post, Taiwan's postal service, admits they will never be delivered.
The Taiwanese authorities have, in name, placed the Diaoyu Islands, some 120 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan's Ilan county and 200 nautical miles southwest of Japan's Okinawa, under the jurisdiction of Toucheng township in Ilan and have even given them a postcode - 209.
But the Ilan government has no real authority when it comes to administering the islands. That has led to some bizarre actions by Taiwanese activists keen to assert Taiwan's sovereignty over the island group, also claimed by mainland China and Japan, which calls them the Senkakus.
Veteran activist Chin Chieh-shou, now a New Taipei City councillor, has tried to sail to the uninhabited Diaoyus several times to erect a sign bearing the address No1 Diaoyutai Road.
He's only made it to the islands once, in October 1996, when he and five other activists managed to land on one of the major islets of the Diaoyu cluster and plant the Taiwanese flag.
Chin did not have the address sign with him that time, but supporters still remember it and keep sending mail to express their dissatisfaction over Japan's control of the Diaoyus.
"Whenever disputes arise over the Diaoyu Islands or activists go to sea to protest, we receive letters sent to our post office," said Lee Jung-hua, from the Suao Post Office, which handles mail addressed to the Diaoyus.
He said his post office had handled at least 60 mail items since last week's protest voyage by a group of Hong Kong activists. "Of course they are undeliverable," he said.
Lee said that according to post office regulations, undeliverable mail would be held at the post office for 15 days to see whether anyone would claim it.
"But obviously those who sent in the mail were well aware that their letters could not be delivered and thus after 15 days, we return the letters to the senders."
Lee has been looking after mail addressed to the Diaoyus for five years. He said that four years ago, an art gallery owner in Taipei started sending registered mail addressed to the Diaoyu Islands every day.
Sometimes she even posted two or three registered letters a day to the Diaoyu Islands.
"She did this for two consecutive years, meaning we received more than 1,000 mail items from her," Lee said. The woman would drive from Taipei to pick up the letters after they had been kept at the post office for 15 days.