Taiwan’s Quemoy island begins importing water from mainland China amid rising cross-strait tensions

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council had asked the Quemoy county government to delay and downplay the ceremony because of moves by Beijing to suppress Taipei

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 August, 2018, 6:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 August, 2018, 8:28pm

Taiwan-controlled Quemoy island has started importing water from nearby Fujian province to ease its shortage, despite rising tensions across the strait.

Also known as Kinmen, officials from the island – which is just 2km from the mainland Chinese city of Xiamen and was a flashpoint during the cold war – signed an agreement with Fujian in 2015 to provide water for 30 years to resolve the problem.

A ceremony was held at the island’s Tianbu Reservoir on Sunday to mark the start of the new water supply, hosted by Quemoy county magistrate Chen Fu-hai and attended by more than 3,000 local officials and guests – although the government of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen wanted to downplay the event.

Meanwhile on the mainland, some 500 officials attended another ceremony at Longhu Lake in the city of Jinjiang, in Fujian. They included Liu Jieyi, director of the Taiwan Affairs Office under the mainland State Council, former Quemoy magistrate Lee Wo-shih and Fujian government officials, Taipei-based United Daily News reported.

The lake, which is the second largest in Fujian, will provide water for the project via a 28km undersea pipeline, delivering 34,000 cubic metres per day to tackle the shortage in Quemoy, according to official news agency Xinhua. The capacity is expected to be expanded to 55,000 cubic metres in the future.

Quemoy government officials said water from the Fujian pipeline would be enough for a 24-hour supply for residents.

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Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council had asked the Quemoy county government to delay and downplay the ceremony because of moves by Beijing to suppress Taipei. They include trying to poach its official allies, stepping up military intimidation by staging war games near Taiwan, forcing international airlines to recognise the self-ruled island as part of China on their websites, and the East Asian Olympic Committee revoking Taichung’s right to host the first East Asian Youth Games next year.

Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province subject to eventual reunification, by force if necessary. Relations across the strait soured after Tsai, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, became president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle. Beijing has suspended official communications with Taipei and insists that Tsai must accept the principle before talks and exchanges can resume.

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Quemoy magistrate Chen said the island’s residents needed the new water supply from the mainland.

“The water supply is the start of three new links across the Taiwan Strait, and for the steady development of Kinmen we hope we can also have electricity and a bridge between Kinmen and Fujian in the future,” Chen was quoted as saying during the ceremony by Taiwan’s semi-official Central News Agency on Sunday.

He was referring to three previous cross-strait links – postal, transport and trade – starting from 1991.

Chen also said Quemoy could become a model for peaceful development between the two sides.

But the Mainland Affairs Council later said the Quemoy government could not act alone on matters to do with cross-strait policy, which must be approved by the Tsai government.

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