Taiwan gets into it with Philippines over high seas chase and death

20 May

The most troubling news in Taiwan for the past week has been that of the dispute concerning a dead fisherman with the Philippines fisheries officials. Last Friday, in disputed waters (which are much closer to the Philippines), a Taiwanese fishing boat was confronted by a Filipino fishery patrol boat. A chase occurred, in which the Filipinos fired on and killed a fisherman on the Taiwan boat. The Filipino officials claim to have done it on self-defense, saying the Taiwanese boat tried to ram them, after which they gave chase and fired repeatedly to stop the boat. The reaction from Taiwan was pure outrage and shock, and has gradually but surely become something not unlike righteous indignation, overreaction, and inflammatory actions. Taiwan first demanded an official apology, as well as punishment and compensation. Taiwan then issued over 10 sanctions including issuing an official warning against its people for traveling to the Philippines and a ban on allowing Filipino workers into Taiwan. While a call for punishment and an investigation is very much warranted, Taiwan’s media, politicians and some of its public have already jumped to the conclusion that the Filipinos committed murder, without any consideration of the possibility of any wrongdoing on the Taiwan side. First, did the incident happen in Filipino waters rather than disputed? Second, is the Filipino account of shooting for self-defense wrong for certain? This Filipino blogger has a reasonable and well-informed overview of the whole affair. The Taiwan anger is also fueled by other factors such as anger at Ma Ying-jeou. Meanwhile mainland China has been dragged into this, due to the fact that the Philippines cannot formally treat Taiwan as a country out of respect to China (which of course infuriates some Taiwanese), but also because China is heavily sympathetic and supportive to Taiwan.

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