Taiwan says China seized fishing boat near Chinese coast

Taiwan demands Beijing release crew and vessel seized from outside Taiwanese waters near Kinmen Islands.

Deputy Director General of Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration Ching-Chin Hsieh explains the case of a Taiwanese fishing boat was seized by China's coast guard, during a news conference at Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration in Taipei on July 3, 2024.
Deputy Director General of Taiwan's <span>Coast Guard</span> Administration Ching-Chin Hsieh explains the case of a Taiwanese fishing boat that was seized by China's coastguard, during a news conference in Taipei on July 3, 2024 [I-Hwa Cheng/ AFP]

Chinese coastguard officials have seized a Taiwanese fishing vessel and steered it to a port in mainland China, Taiwan has said, urging Beijing to release the boat and its six-member crew.

The move late on Tuesday came as China’s coast guard has stepped up patrols around Taiwan’s Kinmen islands after a series of deadly fishing accidents, one of which led to bitter blame-trading between the two sides.

Taiwan’s coast guard said the Taiwanese boat was fishing for squid outside Taipei-controlled waters off the Kinmen islands, when it was boarded and seized by two Chinese maritime administration boats.

Kinmen sits next to the Chinese cities of Xiamen and Quanzhou is roughly five kilometers (3 miles) from the Chinese mainland.

The Taiwanese boat was operating during China’s no-fishing period, the coastguard said, adding that Taiwan will communicate with China and urge them to release the fishermen as soon as possible.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office did not immediately comment.

China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has ramped up pressure on Taipei since President William Lai Ching-te took office in May, a man Beijing accuses of being a “separatist”.

Taiwan’s coastguard said it dispatched two patrol vessels “to try to rescue” the fishing boat, along with a third for assistance, but one was “blocked by” Chinese coast guard ships.

“We broadcast to the Chinese coast guard ship, demanding the immediate release of our fishing boat. The Chinese side also broadcast to us, asking not to interfere,” it said.

“To avoid escalating the conflict, we have decided to stop the chase,” the coast guard said, adding the fishing boat was taken to China’s Weitou port.

The boat had six crew onboard, including the captain and several migrant workers from Indonesia, according to Taiwan’s official Central News Agency.

Taiwan Coast Guard Administration Deputy Director-General Hsieh Ching-chin told reporters in Taipei that China should explain why it had seized the boat, and pointed out that in previous cases, fishermen had been released after paying fines when operating during China’s no-fishing season.

Taiwanese fishing boats need to raise their alert level and the coastguard will also strengthen its patrols, he added.

“The coastguard also calls on the mainland side not to use political factors to handle this situation,” Hsieh said.

Judha Nugraha, the director for citizen protection at Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Reuters news agency that the country’s consulate general in Guangzhou will assist the detained Indonesians.

This is not the first time a Taiwanese fishing boat has been taken by Chinese authorities after operating in that country’s waters, an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.

A Taiwan official, who is familiar with the island’s security planning, told Reuters they have issued alerts to fishing and transport authorities around Taiwan to pay attention to “possible risks” amid frequent Chinese coastguard activities in the region, including near Japan and the Philippines.

It is not uncommon for Taiwan and China to detain each other’s trespassing fishing boats. So far this year, Taiwan has detained five such boats from China, Taiwan’s coastguard data shows.

Chinese maritime enforcement and coastguard ships have been regularly operating around Kinmen since February after two Chinese fishermen died trying to flee Taiwan’s coastguard.

Source: News Agencies