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Thu, Dec 09, 1999 - Page 4 News List

China still silent on Shin Hwa

MARITIME LAW The captain and one crew member of the Shin Hwa are still under detention in China despite continuous lobbying by the MAC

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

A group of elected public servants from Matsu pay a visit yesterday to Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Su Chi, left, to request a "small-scale three links" between Kinmen, Matsu and China.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) officials yesterday said they are actively trying to secure the release of two seamen detained by China since July 31, despite the continued disruption of cross-strait talks.

The Taiwanese cargo freighter Shin Hwa (新華輪) and its 10 crew members were detained by Chinese coast guards for alleged smuggling in waters near Matsu and were taken to Fuzhou, Fujian province.

The ship and eight crew members were released last week, one month after China announced that no indictment would be brought in the case.

Ship captain Kuo Tai-sheng (3╞x生) and crewman Chen Yi-cho (3祠怢`) are still in custody, reportedly for "further investigation."

Accompanied by a group of politicians led by KMT legislator Chao Erh-chung (曹爾忠), ship owner Feng Neng-ti (馮能砥) visited the MAC yesterday.

He asked for assistance in the release of Kuo and Chen, while thanking the council for its efforts that led to the release of the other eight crew members.

MAC Vice Chairman Wu An-chia (吳|w家) promised that the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) -- which is authorized by MAC to handle cross-strait affairs -- and the Taiwan businessmen's association in Fuzhou, would continue to keep in close contact with the Chinese authorities and offer all possible help.

"We call on China to resolve problems pragmatically and sincerely," Wu said. "The ship was detained for four months for no reason. It is ridiculous."

He said the reason Chinese authorities had not brought any charges against the crew members was because there was insufficient evidence of smuggling.

Though no official explanation for the detentions has been given, some commentators have linked the affair to Taiwan unilaterally defining cross-strait ties as that of "special relations between two states."

Others have said it may be a retaliatory move for Taiwan's crackdown on Chinese fishermen trespassing in Taiwanese waters.

The SEF has asked its Beijing counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), to help, but it has not responded.

Most of the negotiations with China over the case have been conducted by a Taiwanese business association in Fuzhou and some Matsu-elected politicians, including Chao.

"We hope the channels of communication will become smooth again in the future. None of the six letters sent by SEF to the ARATS were answered. This is very unreasonable," Chao said.

Chao said the Shin Hwa's detention should not be likened to Taiwan's crackdown on trespassing fishing boats, because they are two different matters.

"Shin Hwa was taken from Taiwan's waters," Chao pointed out.

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