Chinese coast guard causes ‘panic’ with Taiwan cruise ship boarding

The inspection of a sightseeing vessel near Kinmen island comes amid increased Chinese patrols in the area.
By RFA Staff
Chinese coast guard causes ‘panic’ with Taiwan cruise ship boarding Taiwanese coast guards inspect a vessel that capsized during a chase off the coast of Kinmen on Feb. 14, 2024.
(Taiwan Coast Guard Administration via AP)

Updated Feb. 20, 2024, 4:06 p.m. ET 

Chinese coast guard officers boarded a Taiwanese sightseeing vessel near Kinmen island, then inspected its navigation plan and ship documents as the cruise ship’s frightened passengers and crew members looked on, Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration said.

The “King Xia” was 2.8 nautical miles (5.2 kilometers) northwest of Kinmen’s Wushajiao Quay when it was intercepted by the Chinese coast guard on Monday, Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration said in a statement.

The Taiwanese cruise ship had veered slightly off course to avoid low-lying sandbars, according to the statement, which also noted that Chinese tourist boats often stray into Taiwan-controlled waters and only ever receive verbal warnings from Taiwanese authorities.

“The Taiwanese coast guard calls on China to uphold peace and rationality and jointly maintain tranquility in the waters around Xiamen and Kinmen,” the statement said.

Kinmen is less than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from China’s Fujian province but more than 180 kilometers (112 miles) from Taiwan’s mainland. The island and Fujian’s city of Xiamen are separated by Xiamen Bay.

Six Chinese coast guard members boarded the “King Xia,” which was carrying 23 passengers and 11 crew members, according to Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration. 

“We think it has harmed our people’s feelings and triggered people’s panic,” the head of Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Council, Kuan Bi-ling, told reporters on Tuesday.

The council is the official governing body that oversees the democratic island’s Coast Guard Administration and the implementation of marine-related policies.

The boarding of the sightseeing ship was another attempt by China to “deliberately escalate the situation,” said Su Tzu-yun, a senior analyst at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research in Taipei.

‘Lives and property’

Monday’s incident comes a week after a Chinese fishing boat capsized in Kinmen’s waters on Feb. 14, causing two crew deaths. 

Beijing condemned the incident and pledged over the weekend to conduct regular patrols “to protect fishermen’s lives and property.”

Also on Monday, China dispatched four vessels to an area around Kinmen, which is governed by Taiwan. The Chinese vessels did not enter Kinmen’s prohibited waters.

The boundaries between the outer islands under Taiwan’s control and China’s mainland, called “prohibited waters” and “restricted waters,” were set by Taiwan in 1992 and so far have been tacitly respected by both sides, despite China never officially recognizing them. 

“Prohibited waters” refer to the territorial waters around Kinmen that extend about halfway to the Chinese coast, or roughly 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to the north and northwest. “Restricted waters” extend a little further, about 8 kilometers (5 miles), to the south.

CCG 8029.jpg
China coast guard vessel Zhongguohaijian 8029 was 2 km (1.2 miles) from Kinmen’s northwest at 9:05 a.m. on Feb. 20, 2024. (Marine Traffic)

Chinese coast guard vessels don’t normally enter the islands’ prohibited waters, nor do Taiwanese law enforcement ships venture out of them.

Recently, Kinmen has seen frequent flyovers by Chinese drones.

On Tuesday, a China coast guard vessel came as close as 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) to the island’s northwest coast, ship tracking data showed.

The location of the “Zhongguohaijian 8029” was well inside the so-called “prohibited waters,” according to data provided by the tracking website Marine Traffic and analyzed by Radio Free Asia.

Taiwan’s coast guard used radio and broadcast and dispatched a boat to drive the Chinese vessel away, according to a Taiwanese statement.

Edited by Mike Firn, Taejun Kang and Matt Reed.

This story has been updated to begin with Monday’s boarding of the cruise ship.


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