A group of activists led by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Chang Chun-hong (張俊宏) said they will sue Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over the issue of the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in the Yilan District Court today.
“The lawsuit came as our determination to protect the human rights, sovereignty and fishing rights of Taiwanese because the islands have always been part of Republic of China [ROC] territory,” Chang, who represented the Taiwan Gene Foundation, told a press conference.
The group, which also includes the Legal Reform Promotion Association of the ROC, lawyers and fishermen’s representatives, is set to file a lawsuit for conversion and tort against Abe, seeking NT$2 million (US$67,000) in compensation.
Chang described the recent signing of a Taiwan-Japan fisheries pact, which drew an intervention-free fishing zone for Taiwanese fishermen in the waters near the disputed islands — known in Japanese as the Senkaku Islands — but recognized Japan’s 12 nautical mile (22.2km) territorial water boundary as unreasonable, saying that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration was malfeasant in its failure to protect the ROC’s territory.
Ma committed a serious mistake by shelving the sovereignty issue in the negotiations as it also gave China space to intervene, Chang said.
Cheng Mei-lan (鄭美蘭), former president of the National Fishermen’s Association, and fisherman Tseng Tai-shan (曾太山) said the government must explain why it made concessions to Japan and why Japan was able to nationalize the islands if the Diaoyutais have always been part of the ROC’s territory.
“For decades we have been having a hard time figuring out why our fishermen would either be chased away, detained or fined by Japan if the Diaoyutais were our territory as the government claimed. With the lawsuit, we want an answer once and for all. If it is not our territory, we will not fish in that area in the future,” Cheng said.
However, the group said it would not point the finger at the government for now because “it is time for consolidation and to show support for the government’s claim of sovereignty over the islands.”
Lawyer Chen Chen-wei (陳振瑋) said after reviewing the facts, the group was convinced that the Yilan District Court has jurisdiction for the lawsuit because the islands are part of Yilan County’s Toucheng Township (頭城) and they “could not come up with any scenario in which the court would reject the lawsuit.”
“We are confident that we will win the case,” Chen said.
Former DPP chairman Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良) said he supported the lawsuit because historical documents and facts about the island dispute would be examined during the legal proceedings, which is helpful in resolving controversies.