Activists and government officials yesterday vowed to protect the right of Taiwanese fishing boats to operate around the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) and to defend the country’s sovereignty over the region.
A small group from the World Chinese Alliance in Defense of the Diaoyu Islands (世界華人保釣聯盟), an organization composed of activists from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and China, joined hands in their latest move to assert Chinese ownership over the area, which is also known as Senkaku Islands in Japan.
Chinese Association for Protecting the Diaoyutais chairman Hsieh Mang-lin (謝夢麟) said yesterday that a group of six Taiwanese would rendezvous with 14 other activists led by Chan Miu Tak (陳妙德), chairman of the Hong Kong-based Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, at sea near Pengjia Islet (彭佳嶼) off Taiwan’s northernmost tip today before heading toward the Diaoyutai Islands.
“This time we will be fully prepared and plan to land on the Diaoyutai Islands to hoist the flag of the Republic of China to maintain our sovereignty and fishing rights,” he said.
According to the Web site of the Chinese Association for Protecting the Diayutais, the Bao Diao II vessel, with 14 people on board — including Chan, activists from China and Macau, four crew members, and two journalists from Phoenix Hong Kong Channel — departed at 12:45pm on Sunday.
The Taiwanese group is scheduled to set sail from Yilan this evening in two fishing boats.
Hsieh said that move was triggered by the upcoming visit to the islands by 50 Japanese lawmakers on Sunday.
“We will act in concert with the group led by Chan to proclaim that Diaoyutai Islands belong to Chinese people,” Chan was quoted by the Japan Times as saying. “Japanese lawmakers are planning to land on the islands on Aug. 19. We want to get there before they do.”
“The Diaoyu Islands are Chinese territory. We will fight for the sovereignty of the Chinese nation,” Chan said.
Coast Guard Administration (CGA) Deputy Director-General Wang Chung-yi (王崇儀) said the agency would send coast guard vessels to escort and protect Taiwanese activists in accordance with previous practice.
“As long as the activists meet regulations that forbid the carriage of items of dangerous goods onto a ship and the weather permits, we have no reason to stop fishing boats from setting sail to Diaoyutai Islands,” Wang said.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Steve Hsia (夏季昌) reiterated that Taiwan has sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands, which are traditional fishing grounds for Taiwanese fishermen and part of its territory.
Hsia called on all parties to remain rational and practice restraint to avoid escalating tensions.