China defends coast guard patrols and dismisses panic claims in Taiwan-related incident

Zhu Fenglian

28th February 2024 – (Beijing) China’s government asserted on Wednesday that its coast guard patrols around the Kinmen islands, which are under Taiwanese control but situated near the Chinese coast, were conducted in a manner that is “beyond reproach.” The statement came in response to complaints that the boarding of a Taiwanese tourist boat by China’s coast guard had caused panic among passengers.

In recent weeks, China’s coast guard initiated regular patrols around the Kinmen islands, which face China’s Xiamen and Quanzhou cities. This move followed an incident in which two Chinese nationals tragically lost their lives while attempting to flee Taiwan’s coast guard after their boat entered prohibited waters.

Taiwan reported last week that a Taiwanese tourist boat operating from Kinmen had been briefly boarded by China’s coast guard, resulting in panic among passengers. Additionally, this week witnessed the entry of five Chinese ships into prohibited or controlled waters, according to Taiwan’s claims.

During a regular news briefing in Beijing, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, emphasized that China does not recognize any waters around Kinmen as off-limits for fishermen. Zhu further stated that the coast guard’s boarding of the tourist boat did not cause alarm and dismissed claims of panic.

Zhu asserted that the coast guard carries out its official duties within its own waters, in accordance with the law, to maintain normal order and protect the lives of fishermen and travellers. She emphasised that the coast guard’s law enforcement practices are conducted in a civilised and transparent manner, and therefore, are beyond reproach.

The relationship between Taiwan and China has been tense, with Beijing ramping up pressure on Taipei following the election of Lai Ching-te as president last month. Despite Taiwan’s rejection, China considers the island as its own territory and views Lai, who assumes office in May, as a separatist.

China refuses to acknowledge any sovereignty claims by Taiwan and has accused the island of acting maliciously, attributing the deaths of the two Chinese nationals on the fishing boat to Taiwan’s actions. Taiwan, on the other hand, has defended its measures and criticised China for failing to effectively control its fishing boats and prevent their entry into Taiwanese waters surrounding Kinmen, an area that witnessed frequent conflicts during the height of the Cold War.

Zhu placed the blame on Taiwan for its perilous enforcement actions, urging the relevant parties in Taiwan to respect the long-standing presence of both sides in traditional waters and cease the seizure and detention of mainland fishing boats in a rough and hazardous manner.