Chinese diplomats to investigate death of Hainan fisherman in Palau
Wen Zhencai, Overseas Chinese Affairs Counselor with the embassy, said they were notified by relevant Palau authorities that the fishermen, from China’s Hainan province, were poaching off the waters of Palau.
Clashes broke out between the fishermen and law enforcement personnel, with law enforcement officers opening fire and wounding a Chinese fisherman. The fisherman later died from his wound. So far, 25 Chinese fishermen are in custody in Palau.
Palau police officers had apparently aimed their guns at the ship’s engines, the Associated Press reports, citing Fermin Meriang, a spokesman for Palau’s president. "One of the bullets must have ricocheted off the engine and struck him in the thigh," he said, adding that the fisherman bled to death before he could be taken to a hospital.
Wen said the above claim is yet to be verified and Chinese consular officials will, in cooperation with Palau authorities, visit the prison and interview each detained Chinese crew member face to face to gain further insight into the incident and take necessary consular protection measures.
As China does not have diplomatic relations with Palau, the incident will be handled by the Chinese embassy in Micronesia in line with the relevant procedures.
Earlier media reports said the fishermen aboard a Chinese vessel were allegedly poaching giant clams off the waters of Palau.
Besides the fisherman who died, another five men, all believed to be Chinese, were taken from the burning ship and have been charged with unlawful entry and illegal fishing in Palau waters, the reports said.
Police from Palau’s Fish and Wildlife Division fired warning shots at the vessel when it refused to stop after being detected near a conservation area at dawn on Saturday, AFP reported.
Palau President Johnson Toribiong issued a statement in which he did not mention the shooting or arrests but said a US-licensed pilot and two police officers were missing 48 hours after their plane crashed while searching for the fishing vessel’s mother-ship, which had been set alight, China Daily said in an article on Thursday. The single-engine Cessna aircraft left the Palau National Airport on Sunday, but more than three hours after it was due to return the pilot radioed in to say that his navigational systems had failed and that he was running out of fuel.
The US Coast Guard and a mega-yacht owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen were still searching for the crew on Wednesday.
The US is currently responsible for the defense of Palau, which gained independence in 1994. Palau closely guards its territorial waters after declaring the world’s first shark sanctuary in 2009, banning shark fishing in its exclusive economic zone, which covers almost 630,000 sq km of the northern Pacific.
The charge of unlawful entry into Palau, which has a population of 20,000, carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment and a $50,000 fine.
The top priority at present is to verify the fishermen’s nationalities and find out what really happened, said Xia Liping, deputy dean of the Department of Diplomacy with the China Foreign Affairs University.
"If they did break the local and international laws, what China needs to do is to provide them with the necessary legal assistance, such as helping them find interpreters and lawyers," she said.
Xia also added that Chinese nationals should enhance legal and self-protection awareness in order to avoid consular disputes.
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