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Taiwan-China negotiations on fatal Kinmen boat collision collapse

03/06/2024 03:13 PM
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A family member of the Chinese men who died in the Feb. 14 incident goes through boarder checks in Kinmen before boarding a ferry to China on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of a private contributor March 5, 2024
A family member of the Chinese men who died in the Feb. 14 incident goes through boarder checks in Kinmen before boarding a ferry to China on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of a private contributor March 5, 2024

Taipei, March 6 (CNA) The families of two Chinese men who died when their boat capsized after colliding with a Taiwanese Coast Guard vessel near Kinmen last month returned home Tuesday after officials representing the two sides broke off negotiations without a deal.

In a statement regarding the talks, the Coast Guard said it had tried its best to satisfy the families' needs and provide a "consolation package" within the limits of Taiwanese law.

During the negotiations, however, Chinese officials "insisted on making demands that did not comply with [Taiwan's] legal system," the agency said of the case, which is still being investigated by Kinmen prosecutors.

Chen Ssu-chuan (陳泗川), director of the Coast Guard's Kinmen-Matsu-Penghu branch, accompanied the families to pray for the men at a Kinmen morgue before seeing them off as they returned by boat to Xiamen.

Despite the failure to reach a consensus, "the two sides will keep their lines of communication open, and don't want to shut the doors of negotiation like this," he said.

The Feb. 14 incident occurred when Taiwan's Coast Guard responded to the presence of a Chinese speedboat that had entered into prohibited waters off the eastern coast of Kinmen.

Q&A/Taiwan and China's dispute over the waters around Kinmen

Photo courtesy of Kinmen-Matsu-Penghu Branch, Coast Guard Administration Feb. 14, 2024
Photo courtesy of Kinmen-Matsu-Penghu Branch, Coast Guard Administration Feb. 14, 2024

According to the Coast Guard, the Chinese boat refused its request to board and inspect the boat, and later fled, setting off a high-speed chase which ended when the escaping vessel made a sudden right turn and its tail collided with the front of the patrol boat.

The force of the collision caused the speedboat to capsize, throwing its crew of four into the water, of which two were rescued and the other two were found unconscious and later declared dead, the Coast Guard said.

The accident sparked a furious reaction from China, in the wake of which the Coast Guard was slow to provide its own account of what happened.

The agency has said it does not have video footage of the incident, and only admitted on Feb. 22 -- eight days after it occurred -- that there had been a collision.

Feb. 14: 2 dead after Chinese speedboat capsizes in Kinmen waters

Feb. 18: China using 'gray zone' tactics after deadly Kinmen boat case: Experts

Feb. 19: Taiwan vessel returns to Kinmen after being boarded by Chinese coast guard

The evidence it says it does have, including audio recordings and radar data relating to the chase, has been turned over to Kinmen prosecutors, who requested that it not be made public as the investigation proceeds, the Coast Guard said.

On Tuesday, the Chinese representative in the negotiations -- Quanzhou City Taiwan Affairs Office deputy director Lee Chaohui (李朝暉) -- blamed Taiwan for the failure to reach an agreement.

"It's now been 15 days since the incident occurred, and after multiple rounds of negotiations, the Taiwan side has still yet to provide a convincing explanation of what happened," Lee said.

Lee said Taiwan's negotiators had refused to take responsibility for the men's deaths and left Kinmen on Sunday, showing a lack of will to resolve the problem.

"The Democratic Progressive Party authorities will bear responsibility for the consequences of this," he warned.

Feb. 21: Taiwan's military to stay out of China dispute to avoid escalation

March 6: Kinmen capsizing unlikely to escalate into cross-strait conflict: Academics

Meanwhile, one of the deceased men's family members lamented that Taiwan had "never given us the truth" about what happened.

"The boat was clearly rammed [by the Coast Guard], but no one is willing to take responsibility -- not even a single word of apology," the man said.

Speaking at the Legislature on Tuesday, Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) argued that the Coast Guard was acting legally when it moved to expel the Chinese speedboat, even though the men's deaths were "deeply regrettable."

Because Taiwan is governed by the rule of law, however, prosecutors will investigate what happened based on the evidence, and only after that is complete will we be able to know the truth, he said.

"If there is a need to apologize, we will apologize. If there is a need for compensation, we will provide compensation," Chen said.

(By Lin Ching-yin, Hung Hsueh-kuang, Chang I-lien and Matthew Mazzetta)

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Related News

March 4: Audio of Kinmen boat collision turned over to prosecutors: Coast Guard

March 2: Coast guard patrol vessels to get 24/7 surveillance systems after Kinmen incident

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