Mon, Sep 24, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Hundreds march in support of islands

FLAG KERFUFFLE:Some pro-unification demonstrators carried flags of the People’s Republic of China, leading to confrontations with angry independence supporters

By Loa Iok-sinand Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter with staff writer

“What do you mean Taiwan is not part of China?” a pro-unification demonstrator asked, approached. “This is nonsense! You stupid Taiwan independence supporter!”

Meanwhile, the Presidential Office said it welcomed the peaceful method by which Taiwanese had expressed their opinions on the Diaoyutais, adding that as Taiwan was a democratic society, the government would do everything to uphold citizens’ right to express their opinions on the issue.

At a separate event, a group of fishermen announced that 60 Taiwanese fishing boats from Yilan County would set sail today for the Diaoyutai Islands to safeguard Taiwanese fishermen’s trawling rights in waters near the resource-rich island chain.

The action is to mark the first large-scale attempt by Taiwanese fishermen to bolster their right to fish near the Diaoyutais since the territorial dispute reached a new level following a Sept. 11 announcement by the Japanese government that it had nationalized three of the islands in the chain.

Former Yilan County Longline Fishing Association director Lin Jih-cheng (林日成), who is to serve as commander for the mission, said that in addition to the 60 fishing boats, which are to set sail from Suao Township (蘇澳) at 3pm today, more fishing vessels operating near the island group are also expected to take part.

“These fishing vessels are scheduled to converge at 20 nautical miles [37km] southwest of the islands at 5am on Tuesday and sail clockwise around the chain in a move to claim Taiwanese fishermen’s fishing rights in the water area,” the Chinese-language United Evening News reported reported Lin as saying.

The vessels could approach up to 12 nautical miles of the contested archipelago, Lin said, adding that the mission did not include landing on the islands.

The vessels will return to the Nanfangao fishing harbor in Suao on Wednesday morning.

“The mission aims to make sure our voices are heard by the Japanese and serves as a test to see how much emphasis the government will put upon Taiwanese fishermen,” Suao Fishermen Association director Chen Chun-sheng (陳春生) said, after an earlier mission was postponed due to a failure to obtain NT$5 million (US$170,000) in fuel subsidies from Yilan County Government.

The archipelago — claimed by Taiwan, China and Japan — is currently registered under the jurisdiction of Yilan County in Taiwan.

“We are defending our fishing rights by ourselves,” Chen said, adding they were only able to carry out the postponed action after receiving a NT$5 million donation.

Chen said the vessels are to fly banners with slogans defending their fishing rights, while participating fishermen are to wear a T-shirt with the words: “Fighting for fishing rights to survive” on the front and a Republic of China (ROC) flag printed on the back.

A “secret counter-attack plan” is also on standby should the Japanese coast guard dispatch vessels to jeopardize the sail, Chen said, declining to give details.

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