Sat, Jun 11, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Do more to protect fishermen, blue camp says

FOOT-DRAGGING The government is not doing enough to protect the nation's fishing industry and territory, pan-blue lawmakers said amid a territorial dispute with Japan

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

The pan-blue camp yesterday criticized the government for not defending the rights of the Taiwanese fishing industry and standing up to Japan after Thursday's protest conducted by Taiwanese fishermen.

The protest came after Japanese patrol boats drove Taiwanese fishing vessels away from rich fishing grounds around the Diaoyutais in the East China Sea.

"Japan views the Diaoyutais as being under their jurisdiction, claims the neighboring waters as part of their economic zone and has strictly upheld their legal rights," said New Party Secretary-General Lee Seng-fong (李勝峰).

"The government also claims the Diaoyutais as our economic waters under our jurisdiction, and considers our fishermen's activities in that area legal," he said. "However, the government has not upheld the rights of our fishermen. Only by strictly exercising its administrative rights can we force the Japanese government to negotiate."

On Thursday, more than 50 Taiwanese fishing vessels staged a protest around the Diaoyutais and Penchiayu islets to vent their anger for having been previously driven off by Japanese patrol boats.

In response to the protest, the Taiwanese government called on the fishermen to be rational and give the government the space and time to negotiate with the Japanese government.

The Diaoyutais are regarded by the government as being under the jurisdiction of Ilan County and part of the nation's fishing grounds.

Speaking at the legislature yesterday, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said that the government should protect Taiwan's territorial rights after doing research into the history of the islands and the international implications of the situation.

"The government may have other concerns, but as of yet we have not seen any actions showing its resolve to defend our sovereignty," Wang said. "The government should respond soon, declare its position to the international community and take action."

The People First Party (PFP) legislative caucus also criticized the government yesterday, saying that June 8 should be made a day of national shame.

At a press conference yesterday, the PFP said that if the government does not assert its authority, then it cannot be expected to negotiate with Japan on the issue.

The government's current actions, said PFP caucus whip Li Yong-ping (李永萍), amounted to a "betrayal of Taiwan."

The PFP will assist the fishermen involved in the protest in seeking compensation from the government, Li added.

Also yesterday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Joanna Lei (雷倩) urged the government to seek to participate in relevant world bodies as "an entity" in order to speak for the people in Taiwan in fishery disputes and other international issues.

Addressing the recent fishery, Lei said that it is extremely important for the government to seek participation in international organizations to voice the interests of the Taiwanese people and she called on the government to clearly underline the nation's stance on the issue in order to protect the interests of Taiwanese fishermen.

Although Taiwan is unable to join the UN and other international organizations as a result of pressure from Beijing, Lei prodded the government to do so as "an entity" on the grounds that protecting the people's interests is the top and the most urgent issue for the government.

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