By Samuel Miller
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America and Oceania
JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Indonesia on Monday strongly protested the Chinese government and demanded it clarify the actions of a Chinese coast guard vessel that reportedly had contravened law enforcement measures being conducted by Indonesian authorities against a China-flagged boat allegedly committing illegal fishing in Indonesian waters. According to Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, the Indonesian government submitted a protest to China’s charge of affairs Sun Weide in Jakarta over the incident in Indonesia’s economic zone near the Natuna islands.
Foreign Minister Retno said the coast guard ship had disrupted Indonesian authorities who were acting in accordance to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Beginning Saturday evening, the Chinese fishing vessel was stopped for fishing illegally in Indonesia’s waters and was being towed to port when the Chinese took it back, leaving its crew in the hands of Indonesia.
Arrmanatha Nasir, a spokesman for Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, stated that Indonesian personnel boarded the Chinese boat, the Kway Fey, took its captain and eight-member crew into custody, and began towing the ship back to a base on the Natuna Islands. But around midnight, he said, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel, which had been following the Indonesian ship, approached it on or inside the 12-nautical-mile line marking Indonesia’s territorial waters, eventually hitting the ship.
According to multiple Indonesian sources, China’s Coast Guard rammed one of the country’s fishing boats to pry it free from the Indonesian authorities. Indonesia decided to release the boat and proceed to shore with the crew.
On Monday, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying, called the area where the episode took place traditional Chinese fishing grounds, and said that the Coast Guard vessel had not entered Indonesian territorial waters.
“China immediately requested Indonesia to release the detained Chinese fishermen and ensure their physical safety,” she said at a regularly scheduled news conference in Beijing. “The sovereignty of the Natunas belongs to Indonesia. China has no objections to this.”
Indonesia’s Marine and Fishery Minister Susi Pudjiastuti however disputed the statements from China, particularly those pertaining to traditional fishing grounds.
“There’s no international treaty which recognizes or admits what’s been claimed by the China government as traditional fishing ground. If there’s such, that’s a one-sided claim and not acknowledged by the international community,” she told reporters.
“We will summon the Chinese ambassador to discuss the issue,” the Jakarta Post reported Susi as saying on Sunday. “We respect China, but we must also maintain our sovereignty.”
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