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China prolonging fishing crew detention due to tensions: Scholar

07/09/2024 11:27 PM
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Da Jin Man No.88. Photo courtesy of a private contributor
Da Jin Man No.88. Photo courtesy of a private contributor

Taipei, July 9 (CNA) China is prolonging the detention of a Taiwanese fishing vessel and its crew for illegally operating in Chinese territorial seas because of strained cross-strait relations, according to an international relations scholar.

Da Jin Man No. 88 (大進滿88號), a Taiwanese fishing vessel registered in Penghu, was boarded and seized by China Coast Guard (CCG) personnel at a location east-northeast of Liaoluo Bay 17.5 nautical miles outside Taiwan-controlled "restricted waters" off the Kinmen Islands on July 2, according to Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration (CGA).

The vessel seizure occurred during China's closed fishing season, with two Taiwanese and three Indonesian crew members detained by the Chinese authorities for illegally operating in Chinese territorial seas, the CGA said.

Tzeng Wei-feng (曾偉峯), an assistant research fellow at National Chengchi University's Institute of International Relations, believes the Chinese government's handling of this incident involves significant political considerations due to current tensions in cross-strait relations.

"It's not a matter of simply releasing the vessel and crew, as there are numerous political moves that can come into play," Tzeng said, adding that the current situation differs from past instances where both sides could resolve matters in a relatively easy manner.

Before the incident involving Da Jin Man No. 88, Taiwanese fishing vessels had been detained by the Chinese authorities for violating regulations during China's closed fishing season on two occasions in the past 21 years: five boats were seized in July 2003 and six more were seized in July 2005.

In both cases, all 11 of these Penghu-registered ships were released after paying fines and returned to Penghu within two days after being seized, according to the CGA.

However, as of Tuesday evening, Da Jin Man No. 88 and its five crew members have been detained for one week, and it is not known when they may be released.

Tzeng believes that the Chinese authorities have taken a tougher stance on Taiwan-related issues, including the incident on July 2, since President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) gave his inaugural address on May 20.

Beijing regards Taiwan as part of its territory, and views any statements to the contrary, including those made by Lai during his inaugural address, as advocating "Taiwan independence."

"They will no longer handle things as they did in the past, when both sides could resolve matters with just a brief talk," Tzeng added, referring to China's increasing hostility to Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

Tzeng also believes that the ongoing detention of Da Jin Man No. 88 indirectly relates to the newly implemented China Coast Guard Regulation No. 3, which from June 15 has authorized the CCG to board and hold vessels in disputed waters it claims, and to detain and interrogate for up to 60 days foreign nationals it believes have violated its "exit and entry rules."

But the new regulations specifically target vessels from foreign countries, and due to China's claim on Taiwan, the Chinese authorities would be very unlikely to classify Taiwanese fishing boats as vessels from foreign countries, the scholar explained.

Nonetheless, Tzeng suggests that "the CCG has had stronger legal grounds for enforcement, which might lead to more proactive law enforcement actions."

"Increased proactiveness" on the Chinese side could result in a higher likelihood of Taiwanese fishing vessels being accused of operating illegally in Chinese territorial seas, the scholar suggested.

(By Sunny Lai)

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