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Fri, Dec 03, 1999 - Page 2 News List

Shin Hwa returns, but not captain

CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS A Taiwan cargo vessel detained by the Chinese coast guard has been released; its captain and one crew member remain in custody in China for unspecified reasons

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taiwanese cargo ship Shin Hwa (新華輪) and most of her crew were released yesterday after being detained in China for four months on smuggling charges.

However, while Chinese prosecutors are not pressing charges because of a lack of evidence, ship captain Kuo Tai-sheng (3╞x生) and another crew member Chen Yi-cho (3祠怢`) are still being detained.

The ship made port on the island of Matsu around noon yesterday in the company of National Assembly deputy Tsao Yuan-chang (曹-??/CHINESE>) from the New Party and is scheduled to arrive in Keelung today.

The ship was detained by the Chinese coast guard in waters off Matsu on July 31 and taken to Fuzhou in Fujian province for an investigation.

The quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), which handles cross-strait affairs in the absence of official ties, requested its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), to help with the speedy release of the crew members, but the association did not respond.

ARATS has held back a planned Taiwan visit by its chairman and has frozen contacts with SEF since Taiwan defined cross-strait ties as "special relations between two states."

Hsu Chun-ta (3俊1F), chairman of the Taiwan businessmen's association in Fuzhou, was assigned to negotiate with China on behalf of the SEF. Politicians including Tsao, KMT legislator Chao Erh-chung (曹爾忠) and New Party legislator Elmer Fung (馮?2?/CHINESE>) also stepped in to help.

In mid-October, China said that no indictment would be brought against the crew members, but that they would suffer some "administrative penalties." On Monday, China notified the politicians that eight crew members would be released.

Jan Jyh-horng (詹志宏), deputy secretary-general of SEF, urged China to release the other two people as soon as possible.

"China has so far not given us any reason for their detention," Jan said.

Tsao said he had been told by Fuzhou customs officials that the two people cannot be released for the time being because there are still some "details" to investigate.

Officials in China did not say what the "details" were or for how long they will be detained, Tsao said.

"I think the entire matter is of less legal concern than of politics," Tsao said.

Legislator Chao, who also went to receive the released crewmen in Matsu yesterday, said it is "very ridiculous" and unreasonable for China to delay the release of the other two now that legal procedures are complete.

"Now that the ship and crew have been sent back, what is left to investigate?" Chao asked.

By crossing the middle line of the Taiwan Strait and violating Taiwan's territorial waters to apprehend the ship in the first place, Chao said China had violated a tacit cross-strait agreement to stay clear of each other's territorial waters.

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