The government yesterday came under fire over its lack of strategy to assert the country’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) as it called for suggestions from the public on how to resolve the dispute via an essay competition on the day before activists from Hong Kong were arrested by Japanese police for landing on the disputed territory.
Japanese police arrested 14 men yesterday after pro-China activists landed on one of the disputed islands, a Japanese police spokesman said.
“The Okinawa prefectural police arrested five men for violation of the immigration control law on Uotsurijima island,” the spokesman said, referring to one of the islands.
Officials later said that another nine activists had been arrested.
The first arrests came shortly after seven pro-China activists jumped into the water from their boat and reached the rocky shore at about 5:30pm, local police and coast guard officials said.
A group of pro-China activists from Hong Kong and Macau set sail on a Chinese-flagged fishing boat from Hong Kong on Sunday, heading toward the disputed islands.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told reporters that he would “deal with the incident strictly in line with the law.”
The activists, who belong to the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, had said the move was aimed at countering a plan by a group of Japanese lawmakers to visit the islands on Saturday.
The activists made the landing despite the Japan Coast Guard’s heightened security, which included firing water cannon at the activists’ boat, the protest group’s leader said.
Twelve Japanese ships had been following the fishing boat and a helicopter was hovering around, the leader said, but the coast guard declined to confirm the details for “operational reasons.”
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated an essay competition, which asks authors to express their views on solutions to the Diaoyutai dispute, a proposal that drew more criticism than praise from lawmakers yesterday.
People First Party Legislator Thomas Lee (李桐豪) said the government should show its mettle and come up with concrete actions to protect the nation’s territory during the rise in tensions in the East China Sea and South China Sea because Taiwan is in a weak position diplomatically.
“An essay competition alone is meaningless,” Lee said, adding that the ministry might as well hold a fishing competition on the Diaoyutais — “Diaoyu” means “fishing.”
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ma Wen-jun (馬文君) said she could not help but wonder whether the government had run out of ideas.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) was scheduled to explain the plan at 11:15am, but changed his mind and ministry spokesperson Steve Hsia (夏季昌) handled reporters’ questions instead.
Hsia said the purpose of the competition was to raise public awareness of the Diaoyutais issue and to seek suggestions on possible cooperation between countries on joint exploration of resources in the East China Sea.
Asked about the possibility of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) visiting the islands, as suggested by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Yilan County Commissioner Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢), Hsia said the government did not have such a plan.
Hsia was also asked to comment on a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine by Japanese Land and Transport Minister Yuichiro Hata and fellow lawmakers yesterday to honor the dead on the 67th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II.