United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 26, 2016
Executive Summary: The Tsai regime recently proposed turning Taiping Island into a "humanitarian rescue center". Yet it refused to permit its own fishermen to land on the island. Out of one side of its mouth, the Tsai regime issues grandiose boasts. Out of the other side, it orders government agencies to erect barriers to prevent Taiwan fishermen from defending their fishing rights. How ridiculous is that?
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After six days at sea, fishermen from the Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau regions finally arrived on Taiping Island to proclaim their fishing rights. Ironically, the Tsai regime blocked their way, and prevented them from landing. Eventually crewmen aboard the three vessels cited a lack of drinking water and the need for emergency shelter. As a result, the Tsai regime grudgingly permitted them to make a symbolic landing, but only on the dock next to the boats. Boats carrying reporters from Hong Kong were not allowed to set foot on the island. These shenanigans showed that the DPP government's ringing proclamations about “love for Taiwan”, “defense of fishing rights”, and “defense of sovereignty” are nothing more than empty talk.
From beginning to end, the Tsai regime obstructed this attempt by fishermen from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau to proclaim sovereignty. Originally a dozen or more fishing boats were supposed to participate. But the Department of Fisheries threatened boat owners with fines, impoundments, and license revocations. This forced half of them to withdraw. Once the fleet approached Taiping Island waters, the Ministry of Defense declared that Taiping Island was a "military control zone" requiring a 45 day waiting period, and refused to permit the fishermen to land. In fact the requirement applied only to aircraft wishing to use the landing strip on the island. After long drawn out negotiations, the fishermen finally cited exigent circumstances. Only then were they permitted to berth. The military continues to forbid fishermen from landing on the island. The reporters from Hong Kong are required to remain on the boats.
The South China Sea “ruling” demoted Taiping Island to the status of a "reef". The Tsai regime, having misjudged the situation, fell silent and willingly endured the humiliation. Its conduct raises questions about the ability and determination of the Tsai regime to defend the nation's territory. When private citizens launched protests against the unfair “ruling”, the Tsai regime resorted to bureaucratic stonewalling, leaving the public incredulous. Only two explanations are possible. First, the US government has tightened the screws on Tsai, out of fear that the fishermen's actions will attract attention from the international community. The second is that the Tsai regime itself is indifferent about whether Taiping Island is demoted to the status of a reef, and therefore feels no need to proclaim its sovereignty.
No matter which reason is the real reason, the Tsai regime has painted itself into a corner. First, consider the international strategic picture. Maintaining friendly relations with the United States may be important. But the ROC must not reflexively cave in to any and all US demands. It must not sacrifice its national interests and national dignity. The South China Sea “ruling” demoted Taiping Island's status. It undermined our territorial sovereignty, our nation's image, and our nation's morale. The President should encourage private citizens to register their discontent with the South China Sea “ruling” to the international community. This would reflect public opinion on Taiwan towards the South China Sea dispute as a “claimant country”. But the Tsai regime, as expected, groveled before foreign powers. Worse still, it humiliated its own fishermen in front of foreigners. It behaved like a spineless invertebate.
Second, consider the legitimacy of the national leadership. The Tsai government mobilized various agencies to prevent Taiwan fishermen from affirming out fishing rights. It attitude was bureaucratic. Its justifications were absurd. Its rhetoric was unconvincing. The Taiwan public was shocked. Obviously the Department of Fisheries and the Ministry of Defense were carrying out orders issued by superiors. Obviously they were not acting on their own initiative. Otherwise their actions would not have been so closely coordinated. Clearly the relentless interference reflects national policy. According to the polls, nearly 70% of the Taiwan public thinks President Tsai should land on Taiping Island and proclaim our sovereignty. It is bad enough that she has refused to do so. Worse still, she has ordered government agencies to prevent private citizens from doing so. How are people supposed to interpret her actions? How can they respect a leader such as this?
Third, the fishermen's spontaneous affirmation of fishing rights has attracted enormous attention, both at home and abroad. By contrast, the DPP regime's attempt to smear the fishermen and reporters from Hong Kong as “Communists”, is seen as an attempt to draw attention from the real issue. Executive Yuan spokesman Tong Cheng-yuan said that fishermen landing on the island would not have much impact on the international community. Anyone landing without permission, would merely invalidate our national sovereignty. This assertion is patently absurd. In fact, three reporters from Hong Kong, plus three reporters from Taiwan drew considerable international attention to the trip. They published photographs of the vessels bedecked with ROC flags, and of the captain dressed in an eye-catching ROC flag shirt. Unfortunately, Tsai regime obstructionism caused the BBC, Sing Tao Daily, Ta Kung Pao to focus on how Taiwan authorities made things difficult for Taiwan fishermen. Basically, the DPP regime shot itself in the foot.
Only three reporters from Hong Kong took part in the voyage. Why? Mainly because the Department of Fisheries required reporters to have "crew cards". This kept many reporters from Taiwan from participating. In fact, all three Phoenix TV reporters originally hailed from Taiwan. But they were inexplicably smeared as “Communists”. Clearly the DPP “Cultural Revolution” has escalated to the point where truth no longer matters. The Tsai regime invoked "fear of leaked military secrets" as reason to forbid reporters from landing on the island. But when it imposes such authoritarian measures, what right does it have to mock the Mainland authorities?
The Tsai regime recently proposed turning Taiping Island into a "humanitarian rescue center". Yet it refused to permit its own fishermen to land on the island. Out of one side of its mouth, the Tsai regime issues grandiose boasts. Out of the other side, it orders government agencies to erect barriers to prevent Taiwan fishermen from defending their fishing rights. How ridiculous is that?