Sun, Aug 21, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: `Clear Sky' should clear the seas

The government launched a campaign yesterday codenamed "Ching Kung" -- meaning "clear sky" -- to sweep foreign vessels out of the waters surrounding Kinmen and Matsu. The primary targets of the campaign are, of course, the Chinese fishing boats, smugglers and "survey" ships that linger in the vicinity, and in turn become the root of many criminal, social and health problems for Taiwan.

Chinese vessels have been entering Taiwanese waters to smuggle goods and illegal immigrants to the outlying islands or Taiwan proper. The goods being smuggled range from agricultural products and livestock -- which escape health and sanitary inspections and therefore expose Taiwan to various different types of diseases -- to drugs and guns, which have their own danger.

As for the people smuggled in and out of Taiwan via this channel, the social and criminal problems created go without saying. Many Chinese vessels disguised as fishing boats in fact serve as shuttle buses for fugitives from Taiwan to escape to the other side of the Taiwan Strait, helping them avoid capture and punishment for their crimes. Through the same channels, illegal immigrants from China are brought into Taiwan, some voluntarily, while others are forced to work, sometimes even in underworld-related activities, such as prostitution, theft or drug-peddling.

An even more serious problem is the threat to national security. At least some of the boats trespassing in these waters are in fact conducting espionage on the orders of the Chinese government.

For example, an "oil survey" ship named Fen-Dou No. 4 (奮鬥四號) was recently spotted crossing the mid-line of Taiwan Strait and trespassing in Taiwanese waters. The ship belongs to a government-owned oil company in China. On Aug. 17, it again crossed the line. Upon receiving the report, the Ministry of National Defense immediately dispatched two vessels to expel the ship. This was hardly the first time that Chinese survey ships have entered the waters of a neighboring country, inviting protests from the host country. For example, Japan has lodged serious protests against China on several occasions for the same reasons. Many of these ships are acting on the instructions of Beijing.

The ironic thing is this: It turns out that state-owned Chinese Petroleum Corp (中油) actually signed an agreement with the Chinese state-owned oil company in question to jointly survey under the sea for oil reserves. This in turn served as an excuse used by the Chinese side for the intrusion in question. This highlights the risks that Taiwanese companies face in doing business with Chinese companies -- to be used and manipulated in a way that endangers Taiwan's security. Furthermore, even though there is such an agreement in place, in order to enter Taiwan's waters Fen-Dou No. 4 must nevertheless comply with Taiwan's laws and regulations and file for permission from the government beforehand. It is truly outrageous to think that the power of the Taiwanese government can be ignored in such a ridiculous manner.

Under the circumstances, the so-called "Ching Kung" campaign comes just in time. It is hoped that the government can show its determination and decisiveness for a change and safeguard the interests of Taiwan. Unfortunately, the campaign is to last only for one week. One cannot help but think that this will only mean things will be back to normal afterwards.

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