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What Does the DPP Have to Do with the Kinmen Speed Boat Incident?

photo by Olimpia Kot-Giletycz

What is going on?

On February 14, an unregistered Chinese vessel carrying four people capsized near Taiwan’s Kinmen Island during the pursuit by the Taiwanese Coast Guard, which resulted in the death of two crew members. Two others were rescued and temporarily detained in Kinmen, an island administered by Taiwan, five kilometers off the coast of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The event triggered a series of incidents and a strong criticism of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) by China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO). As serious as it is, the event is only one of several that have taken place recently on the Taiwanese restricted and prohibited waters with the involvement of Chinese fishing boats.


What is the broader picture?

The “three-no’s” Chinese speedboat (no name, no certificate, no registration from its port of registry) was spotted while it entered Taiwan’s prohibited waters east of Kinmen County. After refusing to let the Taiwanese Coast Guard board the vessel, it tried to escape, setting off a pursuit that eventually resulted in the accident.

The event triggered a strong response from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), which described the incident as “cruel” and “malignant.” The agency used traditional media and its social media platforms to escalate the situation, turning it into one of the most popular searches on the Chinese internet. Additionally, TAO identified DPP’s policies towards Chinese fishing vessels as the main reason leading to the event that caused the death of Chinese crew members and described the event as a “vicious incident.” According to TAO, Taiwan is ignoring the “historical fact” that fishers from both sides of the Taiwan Strait operate in the traditional fishing areas of the Taiwan Strait and has urged Taiwan to ensure the personal safety of mainland fishermen to prevent such incidents. Taiwan’s president-elect and sitting vice-president William Lai (賴清德) expressed his support for the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) in handling the incident. Meanwhile, Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) stated that to avoid further escalation of the conflict, the armed forces will not be involved in handling the situation.

During the past few years, there have been frequent incidents of cross-border fishing by Chinese fishing boats. Ships from the PRC have also intruded into Taiwanese waters for sand dredging without applying for permission. Kinmen residents in recent years have reported seeing an increase in sand dredgers from China, which extract tons of sand from the ocean floor. According to statistics published by CGA, in the past eight years, more than 9,000 Chinese fishing boats have been driven away, of which nearly 400 have been detained.


Why it matters?

Immediately after the event, Beijing authorities began exploiting this incident to control the Kinmen waters effectively; by February 18, they announced an increase in law enforcement patrols in waters near Taiwan. Thus, the incident may be used as an excuse to expand some control over Kinmen further, which might significantly impact future cross-strait relations.