Mon, Feb 11, 2019 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: CGA sets first line of defense in Kinmen

GUARDIANS:The agency’s duties range from protecting the nation’s territorial waters and watching against disease outbreaks to making sure elderly residents are cared for

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Stationed at the county’s Liaoluo Harbor (料羅碼頭), CGA Fleet Branch member Cheng Shu-yu (鄭書羽), the captain of a 100-tonne patrol vessel, said he has to expel many Chinese fishing boats from Taiwanese waters every day.

During a patrol of Kinmen’s waters on Jan. 24, he spotted a 15-tonne Chinese fishing boat fishing in Taiwan’s territorial waters, Cheng said.

He warned the boat’s crew with sirens and spoke to them through loudspeakers, Cheng added.

“You have invaded our territorial waters. Please leave right now,” Cheng told the Chinese crew in Chinese and Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) as the patrol boat approached the fishers, causing a moment of tension.

Fortunately, the Chinese crew obeyed his instruction and left, Cheng said, adding that had it refused to leave, they would have had to forcefully board and inspect the fishing boat.

While the patrol boat is equipped with weapons, forcible boarding can be risky, especially when fishers wield knives or threaten to start a fire to discourage coast guard personnel from boarding, Cheng added.

He has to evaluate the risks involved in boarding or using weapons, Cheng said, adding that the latter scenario should be taken extremely seriously, as it could evolve into a cross-strait conflict.

Nonetheless, boarding uncooperative ships might be sometimes necessary, as an intrusive ship near Kinmen face a fine of NT$300,000 (US$9,758) or a little more, which might be ineffective to curb illegal fishing, Cheng said.

The coast guard last year expelled 34 Chinese boats from Taiwanese waters, detained 42 vessels and confiscated 26, and issued fines totaling NT$6.3 million, agency data showed.

The agency plans to build 141 new patrol vessels by 2027 to boost its patrol capabilities, as well as the domestic shipbuilding industry. Jong Shyn Shipbuilding Co last month started building the first of 12 new 600-tonne vessels.

Not all of the coast guard’s missions are so belligerent. In the county, the corps members also serve as borough wardens.

They regularly visit elderly people living alone in remote areas to check if they need any help.

The corps has also distributed red envelopes for the Lunar New Year, said Lin Yu-hsiu (林育秀), one of the corps’ female members and its psychological counselor for rookies.

It is not difficult to keep an eye on solitary elders, who can also provide important intelligence to the corps, Wu said.

Asked if they regard Chinese as “enemies,” some coast guard personnel said that they are the targets of the law, while others said they are ordinary people like Taiwanese and that the cultural similarities shared by Kinmen and Xiamen residents are indelible.

The ambivalent mentality is best epitomized by the county’s Mofan Street (模範街) in Jincheng Township (金城), which is lined with the Republic of China flags on one side and the People’s Republic of China flags on the other.

The flags were hung by the borough warden about a year ago, but residents can change the flags if they want, a souvenir store owner said on condition of anonymity.

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