Amid fresh confrontation between China and Japan over the disputed Diaoyutai islets (釣魚台), a group of activists from Hong Kong and Taiwan gathered in Taipei yesterday urging the Taiwanese and Chinese governments to jointly take a “stronger stance” against Japan over the islands.
“Without government support on both sides of the Strait, efforts by civilian associations of [Taiwan, China and Hong Kong] alone will not be enough and will be to no avail,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei County Councilor King Chieh-shou (金介壽) said at a forum discussion on the Diaoyutai issue.
Taiwan, China and Japan all claim possession of the islets, known as the Senkaku islands in Japanese, which are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and potential natural gas deposits. A Sept. 7 collision between a Chinese fishing boat and two Japanese patrol ships near the disputed area sparked a new wave of controversy and diplomatic tensions between Beijing and Tokyo.
A Taiwanese fishing boat, Hsin Teh Yi No. 186, was seized by Japan that same day for allegedly fishing illegally in the disputed area and another Taiwanese fishing boat, Feng Jung No. 106, was held the next day for the same reason. They were both released after a fine was paid.
“The governments on both sides of the Strait must set aside political disagreements and speak with one voice over the Diaoyutai islands lest Japan avails itself of the opportunity,” said Zheng Hailin (鄭海麟), a researcher with the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Huang Hsi-lin (黃錫麟), executive director of the Chung Hwa Baodiao Alliance, said activists could set sail from a fishing port in northern Taiwan “within days” — as early as today — for the islands.
Despite Taiwan’s claim and support from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who sent a congratulatory message to the forum, Huang said it appears the government is trying to prevent activists from staging a protest.
“Security checks at some fishing ports have been tightened and boat owners have been discouraged by the authorities from chartering their boats for us,” he said.
Huang said the protest aims to “highlight the fishing rights of Taiwanese fishermen in shotai islands waters” rather than sovereignty, an issue which he said can only be resolved by official multilateral negotiations.
Given that some ports have been “basically sealed off,” the protesters decided to announce the time and location of their departure only at the last minute.
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