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Wed, Apr 11, 2001 - Page 4 News List

Rights asked for Chinese fishermen

SEA SICK Mainlanders working on Taiwan fishing boats have to live on 'floating hostels' because they're not allowed on Taiwan soil. Their bosses are applying pressure to change the relevant law

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Under increasing pressure from lawmakers and fishing associations from around the island, the chairman of the Council of Agriculture, Chen Hsi-huang (陳希煌), said yesterday that the government would do all it can to accelerate the reform of restrictions governing Chinese fishermen who work for Taiwanese employers.

Currently, Chinese fishermen working for Taiwanese employers are not permitted to come ashore or work within 12 nautical miles of Taiwan's coast.

This means that most live for months at sea in what have been dubbed "floating hostels."

"Given the mounting problems encountered by these fishermen, the council will speed up the reform of the related rules," said Chen in response to urges from KMT legislator Lo Ming-tsai (羅明才).

Approximately 4,000 mainland fishermen are working for Taiwanese fishery companies. They are governed by what they consider to be irrational regulations and say they are enduring substandard living and working conditions.

In an effort to get a better working environment, hundreds of fishermen from the northern coast packed two meeting rooms in the legislature yesterday, voicing their displeasure at existing policies and asking for a loosening of laws based on the concept of "humanitarian concerns" for their employees.

Chen Yu-heng (陳玉衡), a representative of the fishermen's association from Kungliao (貢寮) township in Taipei County, said limitations to prohibit Chinese fishermen from being near the harbor were completely unreasonable because it was difficult to find workers to deal with tasks on shore.

Because of this, many employers try to sneak Chinese laborers into the harbor, he said.

If the government is going to open up tourism to mainland Chinese in July, there is no reason why fishermen can't come ashore, a fisherman from Yehliu said.

"If they can come and play, why can't our fishermen come ashore," said Tsai Ming-hsiung (蔡明雄).

In the past, officials from the Coast Guard Administration (海巡署) turned a blind eye as long as Chinese laborers didn't get off fishing boats, Chen added.

But the the situation has deteriorated since April when the government made its decision to strictly enforce the law. Now, any Chinese workers caught approaching the harbor are immediately expelled. The deportations have caused many conflicts between officials and fishermen.

But amendments to existing laws are still in the making, said Johnnason Liu (劉德勳), an official from the Mainland Affairs Council.

In January the council sent a draft of amendments to the Executive Yuan, and it was left to them to decide which ammendments to pass.

DPP lawmaker Chou Ya-shu (周雅淑) said she would press the government to have a definite response in a week.

To solve the manpower shortage of the fishing industry, the executive branch made an exception and authorized Taiwanese fishing companies permission to hire mainland fishermen in 1993. But these Chinese workers can only work outside the 12 nautical mile limit of Taiwan's territorial waters.

The regulations were relaxed in 1998 to allow Chinese fishermen to temporarily come inside the 12-mile limit after approval, but such vessels can only dock at designated areas, under the condition that Chinese fishermen do not work in the zone.

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