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Mainland Chinese man arrested after breaching Taiwan defences in speedboat

Mainland Chinese man arrested after breaching Taiwan defences in speedboat
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Mainland Chinese man claiming to be ex-navy captain breaches Taiwan defences in speedboat

Taiwan’s coastguard has arrested a mainland Chinese man who drove his speedboat directly to a ferry pier outside Taipei on Sunday in a breach that has raised security concerns on the island.

The man was arrested only after he arrived at the pier around 11am, despite being spotted from a coastguard lookout post while approaching the ferry terminal in the Tamsui River in New Taipei.

The man, identified by his last name Ruan, is 60 years old and was spotted on Sunday 11km (6 nautical miles) off the coast of Tamsui in New Taipei. After entering the Tamsui River, which leads to downtown Taipei, the boat hit a ferry at the pier, according to the coastguard.

A mainland Chinese man detained in Taiwan said he left Ningde port in Fuzhou on Saturday morning before arriving in Taiwan around 11am the next day. Photo: Taiwan Coast Guard

The coastguard sent officers who apprehended the man at the pier and seized his boat for illegal entry. The man was turned over to prosecutors for questioning and investigation.

Ruan, who claimed to be a former mainland Chinese navy captain, said he left Ningde port in the mainland coastal city of Fuzhou on Saturday morning. However, Taiwan’s coastguard said no food or drink was found on the boat and the man did not appear to have a tan.

According to the coastguard, the man said he was persecuted by mainland authorities for “making improper statements” and that he wished to flee to Taiwan.

The incident has sparked concerns in Taiwan, with New Taipei mayor Hou You-yi calling it a serious security lapse, especially considering the pier is less than 10 minutes from Taipei by boat.

“National border security cannot afford any lapses. This incident indicates that the coastguard and the first-line security reporting mechanisms were not effectively managed,” he said.

Chen Kuan-ting, a legislator from the ruling, independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said such illegal entries occurred more often in Quemoy, also called Kinmen – a defence outpost of Taiwan just 10km from the mainland city of Xiamen.

“Now, it has also occurred in key defence areas in Taiwan proper and might become more frequent in the future,” Chen said.

He urged the government to “enhance inter-agency cooperation by integrating resources from the coastguard, navy and army to effectively prevent similar incidents from happening in the first place”.

Kuan Bi-ling, the head of Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Council that is responsible for overseeing the coastguard, acknowledged the role of human error and a security lapse in the incident.

She said the boat was detected by radar 6 nautical miles off the coast of Tamsui.

“The radar system was not at fault; the issue lay with human error,” Kuan said. “Radar operators, relying on their experience, misidentified the boat as a returning fishing vessel.”

Kuan said the radar operators reported the vessel’s proximity to the coastal lookout posts when it reached 6, 3, and 0.5 nautical miles off the Tamsui River.

However, when the last lookout post realised the vessel was not a Taiwanese fishing boat, the operators there failed to promptly alert coastguard officers to intercept the speedboat, Kuan stated.

“There was a 30-minute delay” before the man was apprehended, she said.

“This incident reflects a complete failure,” Kuan admitted while underscoring the importance of integrating more technology to prevent such occurrences in the future.

She also highlighted the need to address potential systematic tests by Beijing such as employing small boats to challenge the island’s coastal defences.

Regarding whether the man genuinely sought freedom in Taiwan, Kuan said many people who illegally entered Taiwan often made such claims, and it was for prosecutors to determine.

However, she said that in the current case under investigation, “the individual appears distinct”.

“He presents himself as refined and well-dressed, with a unique background, having served in the navy and as a ship captain.”

03:11

Mainland China launches PLA blockade around Taiwan, 3 days after William Lai speech

Mainland China launches PLA blockade around Taiwan, 3 days after William Lai speech

Tensions in the Taiwan Strait escalated following the election of the DPP’s William Lai Ching-te as the new leader of the island. In his inaugural speech on May 20, Lai declared that Taiwan and the mainland “are not subordinate to each other”.

This statement was swiftly followed by the People’s Liberation Army launching two days of large-scale military drills that simulated a blockade of the island. Beijing labelled it “strong punishment for the separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ forces”.

Beijing views Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunited by force if necessary. Most countries, including the United States – the island’s biggest arms supplier – do not recognise Taiwan as independent, but are opposed to any unilateral change of the cross-strait status quo by force.

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