Sat, Sep 10, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Ilan fishermen in trouble for China trip

BY SHIH HSIU-CHUAN  /  STAFF REPORTER

A group of 129 Ilan fishermen who sailed 21 boats loaded with religious pilgrims to Meizhou, China, on Thursday night will face an investigation when they return home, Mainland Affairs Council Vice-Chairman You Ying-lung (游盈隆) said yesterday.

"The fishermen didn't file an application with the government before leaving," You said.

By law, Taiwanese must file an application for permission to engage in cross-strait shipping.

You said the fishing boats left at 7:30 pm Thursday night and sailed out of Taiwan's territorial waters later that night.

"They arrived in China at noon yesterday," You said.

The passengers are members of the Nanfang-ao Temple (南方澳南天宮) who wanted to attend the Matsu Festival in Meizhou, which began on Wednesday and runs until Sept. 18.

"Another group of about 300 people from the same temple got approval to attend the festival, which shows the Mainland Affairs Council does not restrict cross-strait religious exchanges," said Yang Jia-Jiunn (楊家駿), director of the council's legal affairs department. "There's no reason for the 21 boats to go to China without the government's approval."

Coast guard personnel who escorted the boats out to sea had urged the fishermen not to cross the boundary line, but were unable to stop them as the Taiwanese boats sailed into a group of Chinese boats, he said.

The fishermen could face criminal charges, he said.

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