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May 28, 2017

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Coast guard personnel weren't abducted by fishing boat: CGA

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwanese coast guard officers were not abducted by a Chinese boat during an inspection mission conducted last Saturday, Coast Guard Administration (CGA, 海巡署) Minister Wang Ginn-wang (王進旺) said yesterday during a Legislative hearing.

Asked by lawmakers to comment on the incident, Wang said the five CGA personnel who boarded a Chinese fishing vessel that crossed into Taiwanese waters last Saturday were not abducted by the Chinese fishermen as claimed by some local media.

Wang said the five personnel boarded the fishing vessel around 2 p.m. Saturday after a Taiwanese fisherman reported a dispute with the vessel in the area northeast of Pengjia Islet, off the coast of Keelung, earlier in the same day.

After boarding the ship, the officers instructed the Chinese captain to come to Keelung to file a statement and settle the dispute.

However, the skipper secretly switched on the autopilot mode and took his vessel in a northeasterly direction, Wang said.

The CGA personnel on board were unable to find the switch to turn off the autopilot and thus the boat continued to travel northeast.

But the CGA minister stressed that during the whole process, three of the five CGA personnel onboard monitored the members of the boat's crew, while two stayed on the bridge.

The CGA later sent another five support vessels to pursue the fleeing Chinese ship before managing to surround it some 40 nautical miles northeast of Pengjia Islet five hours later.

The crew of the Chinese fishing boat is currently in detention after being sent back to Taiwan, the minister said. They will face a maximum fine of NT$500,000 for illegally fishing in Taiwanese waters.

The CGA also sent the case to Keelung prosecutors for further investigation, he added.

Stepping up Training for Onboard Inspections

The CGA minister, however, admitted that there is room for improvement on the CGA's part during the mission.

He explained that the CGA personnel were unable to find the autopilot switch because the controls had been rewired to deliberately hide the switch.

The CGA will step up training to improve its personnel's onboard inspection techniques, he noted.

At the same hearing, Wang confirmed that the CGA had contacted its Chinese counterparts during Saturday's mission.

The move was not made to "ask approval" from the Chinese authorities to board the Chinese fishing boat but done in accordance with the Cross-strait Joint Fight against Crime and Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement (兩岸共同打擊犯罪協議), he noted.

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