TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) rejected charges yesterday that a restricted area set up in Yilan County for Chinese fishermen will enable them to work in Taiwan and insisted that Chinese nationals are still barred from taking up jobs in the country.
MAC Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan was responding to a local media report that the Council of Agriculture (COA) had opened a small section of Nanfangao port where Chinese workers could perform odd jobs and stay overnight and that it was planning to extend the measure to other locations. Opposition legislators and labor groups criticized the move and accused President Ma Ying-jeou of reneging on a campaign promise not to allow Chinese workers on Taiwanese soil. Lai denied, however, that the government has altered its stance on the issue, and explained that allowing the Chinese fishermen to stay ashore was merely an extension of their offshore activities aboard Taiwanese fishing boats, and that they were not earning extra pay for their work on land.
She asserted that the measure will not negatively impact employment opportunities for Taiwanese workers, because Chinese fishermen employed by local fishing vessels will do the same jobs as before even though they can now be housed on shore. “The government has no plans to open its door to Chinese laborers at the present,” she said. In a statement issued later Sunday, the COA’s Fisheries Agency confirmed that Chinese fishermen would be limited in the restricted area to jobs that would also be done on board the fishing vessels, such as repairing nets.
It also stressed that the principle of allowing local fishing boats to hire Chinese fishermen offshore to help with tasks offshore had not changed, and that the Chinese fishermen would not be allowed to take on jobs outside the restricted area.
Labor rights groups have argued that some of the jobs the Chinese fishermen would be allowed to do in the areas should be performed by domestic workers, especially at a time of rising unemployment, and accused the government of “permitting Chinese laborers to work in Taiwan in a disguised form.”
The COA is expected to set up similar port centers for Chinese fishermen in Wuci in central Taiwan’s Taichung County by the end of this year, while similar areas would be established in other regions next year, such as in the Keelung and Hsinchu areas in northern Taiwan and Pingtung County in southern Taiwan, news reports said.
In the past, Chinese fishermen have not been permitted to set foot on Taiwan’s shores except to take refuge when strong typhoons affect waters around the island.