Taiwan calls for release of fishing boat crew seized by Chinese officials from Kinmen island

Taiwan has called for the release of a fishing boat and its crew allegedly seized by Chinese officials from near an island primarily patrolled by Taiwanese coast guard.

According to Taiwanese maritime officials, the Chinese coast guard boarded the boat, Dajinman 88, near the Kinmen archipelago and steered it towards a port in mainland China late on 2 July.

“The coast guard calls on the mainland to refrain from engaging in political manipulation and harming cross-strait relations and to release the Dajinman ship and crew as soon as possible,” Taiwan’s maritime authorities said.

Kinmen, an island with a significant Taiwanese military presence and a frontline just 3km away from Chinese shores, has a history of frequent skirmishes and is primarily patrolled by Taiwan’s coast guard in its surrounding waters.

The boat had six crew members including the captain and five migrant workers, the Taiwanese Central News Agency reported.

According to the Associated Press, Taiwan said Chinese coast guard officials ordered their Taiwanese counterparts to stay away from interfering in the detention of the fishing boat.

Hsieh Ching-chin, a spokesperson for Taiwan’s coast guard, said the boat was not in China’s waters when it was boarded by Chinese agents and steered to a port in Fujian province.

Two Taiwanese vessels were dispatched to rescue Dajinman 88 after two Chinese vessels intercepted the fishing boat. However, a statement from the maritime authorities said that the pursuit was called off to avoid any escalation.

China considers Taiwan a part of its territory and president Xi Jinping has threatened to “reunite” the island with the mainland by force if necessary, while the democratically-elected government of Taiwan says only the island’s people can choose their future.

Beijing’s claim to be the only legitimate Chinese government is known as the One China Principle, and this has been accepted or acknowledged by all but a handful of nations who would otherwise risk being cut off from trading with the mainland. The US formally acknowledges the One China Principle but maintains close informal relations with Taiwan, and does not accept Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over the island.

Earlier, Taiwan’s defence ministry announced that it was not increasing its military presence on the islands near China, including the Matsu archipelago north of Kinmen.

In February this year, six Chinese coast guard officers boarded a Taiwanese tourist boat with 23 passengers and 11 crew members in Kinmen islands. They stayed on the sight-seeing ferry King Xia for half an hour, checking route plans, certificates and crew licences before leaving, Taiwan‘s coast guard said.

Additional reporting with agencies.