China / Government

Taiwan fishermen, lawmakers protest panel's Taiping ruling

(China Daily/AFP) Updated: 2016-07-21 08:57

Taiwan lawmakers and fishermen headed to an island in the South China Sea on Wednesday to protest an international tribunal's ruling in The Hague.

Eight lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the opposition Kuomintang boarded a military plane to Taiping Island, one of the Nansha Islands.

Meanwhile, five fishing boats decorated with banners reading "Protect fishing rights, safeguard sovereignty" set out for the island from Pingtung county, Taiwan, to protest the perceived threat to fishermen's livelihoods.

The boats are expected to arrive in five to six days.

The protests came after the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague ruled last week that the 0.51-square-kilometer Taiping Island was legally a "rock" and not entitled to an exclusive economic zone. Taiping is inhabited by Taiwan fishermen and garrisoned by Taiwan military forces.

Taiwan's authority has rejected the tribunal's ruling, saying it has no legally binding force.

KMT lawmaker Johnny Chiang took part in Wednesday's protest visit. He said: "The ruling is absolutely unacceptable. It is necessary for us to visit Taiping at this time to show the international community that it is an island, not a rock."

The lawmakers watched a display of combat skills by the coast guard stationed on Taiping and visited facilities that show the island is self-sufficient. They returned on Wednesday afternoon.

When the fishermen arrive in Taiping, they will receive drinking water from the island to prove it is not a mere rock and is fit for human habitation, a spokesman for the group said.

In another development, China on Tuesday urged the European Union to stay neutral over the South China Sea issue, after the Council of the European Union acknowledged the tribunal's ruling.

China's Foreign Ministry responded that the EU is not a party involved in the South China Sea issue. "It should be discreet with its words and actions, pay real respect to international law and respect efforts invested by countries in the region to maintain peace and stability," the ministry's Spokesperson Office said in a written interview with China Daily.

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