Mon, Jul 24, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Coast Guard confident despite incidents

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

As the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) conducts a crackdown on Chinese vessels illegally entering waters off the outlying islands of Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu, it has received lot of criticism recently over a handful of incidents.

Critics have alleged that the CGA has ignored the safety of Taiwanese fishermen and has been unable to protect them and their property. The CGA has also been criticised for an incident in which two of its officers were temporarily abducted by Chinese fishermen, and an attack by Chinese poachers that left two guardsmen injured.

"We admit there have been flaws in the way we have dealt with certain incidents. Some officers should have received better training and more exercise. We will strengthen officers' capability to carry out their duties," CGA Deputy Director Yu Chien-tzu (游乾賜) told the Taipei Times.

However, he said, a reluctance to use weapons against Chinese nationals also contributed to the abduction and the attacks.

"To avoid any conflict between China and Taiwan, CGA officers have been reluctant to use their firearms to deal with emergencies. It is a disadvantage," Yu said.

Most officers are concerned that an incident involving a Taiwanese firing on a Chinese national could trigger a major diplomatic dispute, Yu said.

He said despite recent incidents, critics should not ignore the CGA's achievements in cracking down on smuggling and poaching by Chinese in recent months.

On July 2, two CGA officers from the Penghu Coast Guard Office were abducted in waters near the Penghu islands after they had boarded a Chinese fishing boat to investigate an accident between the boat and a Taiwanese fishing vessel.

The CGA dispatched five cutters and one helicopter to intercept the Chinese fishing boat that had abducted the two coast guard officers. The two officers were freed the next day, after the Chinese vessel was forced to stop by CGA vessels and negotiations were completed between Taiwanese and Chinese authorities.

A CGA investigation said the two officers were armed with M-16 rifles when they boarded the Chinese vessel. However, the Chinese fishermen, who had claimed that their boat had suddenly lost power, quickly raced off, leaving the officers to decide whether to use lethal force or negotiate a solution.

Kang Shih-kuang (康世光), an official from the Penghu Coast Guard Office, said that the patrol boat team made tactical errors when they boarded the Chinese vessel.

"According to CGA regulations, they should have dispatched four members, not two, to conduct the mission more carefully," he added.

Nevertheless, the owner of the Taiwanese fishing boat, Hsu Cheng-tsung (許正宗) said his crew was very angry with CGA officers for failing to ask the Chinese vessel to compensate them for the damages caused in the accident.

"The Chinese vessel was responsible for the accident, but the CGA did not bring the Chinese fishermen back to deal with compensation, even though they dispatched five cutters to chase the boat," Hsu told reporters.

"The officers could not even protect themselves," Hsu said.

Hsu, along with other Penghu fishermen, said that the CGA was unable to counter increasingly aggressive Chinese fishermen intruding into Taiwanese waters, which has led to more disputes at sea.

On July 9, three CGA officers were attacked and injured by Chin-ese fishermen during a raid against a number of Chinese poachers at a beach on Kinmen's east coast.

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