Taiwan protests after China boards a tourist boat near Kinmen Island

Taiwan protests after China boards a tourist boat near Kinmen Island

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Taiwan protests after China boards a tourist boat near Kinmen Island

Taiwan on Tuesday protested China’s boarding of a tourist boat, as tensions rise around the Kinmen archipelago, which lies a short distance off China’s coast but is controlled by Taiwan.

Taiwanese media reported the King Xia, carrying 11 crew and 23 passengers, was boarded by the Chinese coast guard for about 32 minutes on Monday. Taiwan’s coast guard escorted the boat back to Kinmen, and it then continued its sight-seeing voyage.

Ocean Affairs Council Minister Kuan Bi-ling told journalists at the legislature on Tuesday that the incident “hurt the feelings of our people, created panic among the people, and was not in the interest of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait,” referring to the 160 kilometre- (100 mile)-wide waterway that separates mainland China from Taiwan, a self-governed island that Beijing claims as its own territory.

Premier Chen Chien-jen said Taiwan was seeking to lower tensions in the area, which have escalated as China increased military activities following Taiwan’s election of an independence-leading president in January.

China is stepping up patrols in the waters off the coast of Taiwan’s Kinmen archipelago, days after two Chinese fishermen drowned while being chased by the Taiwanese coast guard, which accused the boat of trespassing.

Taiwan’s coast guard said a boat carrying four people was fishing about one nautical mile away from Kinmen, which Taiwan has claimed as a restricted area largely for military purposes, and capsized during a chase. The two survivors remain in Taiwan’s custody.

China blamed Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party for the fishermen’s deaths. It also said that there was no such thing as “restricted” waters.

A spokesperson for the Chinese coast guard said Sunday that its Fujian division will regularly monitor the waters off the southern coast of the city of Xiamen — a few kilometers from Kinmen — to strengthen maritime law enforcement.

Fishermen from both Taiwan and China regularly sail that stretch of water, which has seen a rise in tensions as the number of Chinese vessels — including sand dredgers and fishing boats — have notably increased in the area.

Kinmen residents have complained of both the noise and sound pollution from the vessels, as well as losses to their livelihood in fishing.

Taiwan split from China during the 1949 civil war and is an independent country, but Beijing continues to claim the island of 23 million and its outlying islands as Chinese territory and has been ramping up its threat to achieve that by military force if necessary.