Beijing furious after two fishermen injured

Taiwan coastguard fires warning volley of rubber bullets at trespassing mainland fishing vessel that failed to stop in island’s waters off Penghu

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 May, 2017, 12:04am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 May, 2017, 12:04am

A shooting incident on Saturday between the Taiwanese coastguard and two mainland fishermen illegally entering waters near the Penghu archipelago has dealt another blow to the already strained cross-straits relationship.

The incident happened early on Saturday morning, resulting in Taiwan authorities detaining seven mainland fishermen, including the two who suffered injuries to their legs after they were struck by rubber bullets. A Guangdong fishing boat was also seized, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported on Saturday.

An Fengshan, a spokesman for the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said Taiwan authorities had disrespected the mainland crew’s fishing rights and urged Taipei to release the men and their boat as soon as possible.

“This shooting incident ... is outrageous. We asked Taiwan to immediately investigate and solve the problem, as well as release the [mainland] ship as soon as possible,” An said in a statement that was cited by Xinhua.

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CNA reported that the incident took place at about 5.30am when the mainland fishing vessel carrying seven people from Nanao county in Guangdong was detected by the coast guard trespassing about 23 nautical miles west of Huayu islet, on the west side of Penghu.

The Penghu archipelago of some 90 islands and islets in the Taiwan Strait is under the control of the Taiwanese government. It’s lies 50km from Taiwan’s main island and some 140km from the mainland.

The CNA report said the vessel failed to stop for inspection by coastguard officers, despite repeated broadcasted warnings. A video clip taken by the coastguard showed some fishermen sitting on edge of their vessel attempting to prevent officers from approaching and boarding.

The coastguard decided to shoot rubber bullets at the vessel to force it to stop, and two mainland fishermen were accidentally shot on their thighs and ankles because of the heavy swell, CNA reported.

The coastguard took control of the fishing vessel at 5.40am and sent two injured fishermen to a nearby hospital. The rest of the crew were questioned, according to the report.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said the two injured Chinese fishermen were stable and that Chinese government should “educate” fishermen to abide by Taiwan’s laws, which was “the essential way to prevent such incidents from recurring.”

In Beijing, An urged Taiwan to respect mainland fishermen’s rights to work on traditional fishing grounds, including waters near Penghu.

Since Taiwan’s independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year, the island has stepped up patrols for mainland fishing boats trespassing in the waters near Penghu.

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Last year, Taiwan expelled 107 mainland fishing boats trespassing in the island’s waters and increased related fines up to NT$10 million (HK$2.6 million), according to government statistics.

On the early morning of March 31, coast guard officers from Keelung caught a fishing boat of 10 mainland fishermen from Zhejiang province trespassing to fish and said they had fined NT$6.6 million on six Chinese fishing boats this year, according to a report from Taipei-based United News.

During another patrol carried out by 77 people on March 21, Taiwanese coast guards detained a Hong Kong fishing boat and brought 20 fishermen from mainland China to Kaohsiung for questioning.