A group of activists who were involved in a confrontation with the Japanese Coast Guard last month in waters off the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) yesterday demanded that Japan pay reparations for damage to a fishing boat and for emotional distress.
Holding a banner calling Japan “arbitrary,” the five activists, led by Chinese Association for Protecting the Diaoyutais executive director Huang Hsi-lin (黃錫麟), gathered outside the building housing the Interchange Association, Japan, in the morning, urging Tokyo to pay for their alleged losses amounting to NT$5 million (US$169,000).
Huang displayed several sheets detailing the NT$500,000 that he claims has been spent on repairing the Quanjiafu, the fishing boat carrying Taiwanese activists seeking to assert Taiwan’s claim to the Diaoyutais on Jan. 24, and said that he needed a total of about NT$3 million to have the ship fully repaired.
An amount of NT$2 million was also sought as compensation for “our mental distress,” Huang said.
“Why were we not allowed to operate in our territorial waters?” he asked.
After reading out a short letter of protest and handing in the statement to a staff member at the association, the activists turned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to appeal to the ministry to take up the issue with the Japanese government.
On Jan. 24, Huang and the other six activists on board the Quanjiafu attempted to reach the Diaoyutais, about 120 nautical miles (220km) northeast of Taipei, which are also claimed by Japan and China.
According to the Taiwanese Coast Guard Administration (CGA), which had sent four vessels to protect the activists, eight Japanese Coast Guard vessels blocked the boat 28 nautical miles southwest of the Diaoyutais by using tactics such as zig-zagging, creating wash, discharging black smoke and firing water cannons at the boat.
The actions by the Japanese coast-guard vessels severely damaged the boat’s engine, while lamps and other equipment on the boat also suffered damage, he said.
In response to reporters’ questions, Huang lambasted President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for his recently renewed pledge that his administration would not collaborate with China against Japan in asserting sovereignty over the islands.
“When we were there asserting our sovereign claim and the CGA vessels were also there, Japanese coast guard vessels did not relent in firing water cannons until China’s ocean surveillance ships approached. We all knew what this meant,” Huang said.
He said that Ma was under pressure from Japan and the US to renew the pledge.
“Ma was aiming to defuse concerns that Japan and the US have had over Taiwan and China teaming up on the issue. However, Japan’s ‘nationalization’ of the Diaoyutais has necessitated cross-strait cooperation. Before that, we were able to sit down and talk, but now, even the negotiating table has moved,” Huang said.
The activists filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government with the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office seeking compensation earlier this week.