‘Uphold boatmen’s rights’
Ecuador court gives 20 Chinese crew 4 yrs in jail
The Chinese Ambassador to Ecuador urged Ecuador to meet the basic needs of detained Chinese boatmen and respect their legitimate rights. The boatmen were detained in connection with the alleged shipment of endangered species at a protected area.
Ambassador Wang Yulin said during an interview with Ecuadorean national news agency Andes Thursday local time that the ship was not involved in illegal fishing because “it was confirmed that this was not a fishing but a transport vessel.”
And the crew members have evidence to show that the ship’s cargo was obtained from two ships at high sea, 1,000 kilometers away from the Galapagos Islands, Wang said.
Zhang Xianliang, director of the Ministry of Agriculture’s bureau of fisheries, told the Global Times that the vessel entered the Galapagos Marine Reserve to take shelter from the wind.
All Chinese ocean fishing vessels have been installed with ship posi- tion monitoring systems, and the ships have to report their locations to the Ministry of Agriculture every day, Zhang said.
“Our ship position information showed that no Chinese ships have fished in the water of Ecuador,” Zhang said.
On August 13, the Chineseflagged ship Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 was detained for alleged illegal fishing off the Galapagos Islands, where they were caught with 6,600 endangered sharks.
The legitimate rights of the seized crew at the Galapagos San Cristobal Island detention center “were not being protected,” Wang said.
“In the past 10 days, Ecuador has not provided food to them, and they can only cook for themselves,” Wang noted.
An Ecuadorean judge has reportedly sentenced the 20 Chinese boatmen to up to four years in prison for illegal fishing off the Galapagos Islands and fined them $5.9 million.
Wang said that the Chinese side is concerned about the hasty trial held between August 25 and 27.
For instance, the judge did not inform the Chinese crew of their legitimate rights before the trial and postponed the opening of the trial by a day, violating local laws. During the trial, local officials made groundless remarks and sought unreasonable compensation, Wang noted.
Wang Yamin, a professor at Shandong University’s School of Oceanography, questioned the court decision to apply Ecuador’s laws to this case. “The punishment should not be that harsh in either international or Chinese law,” he told the Global Times. “The ship was detained outside Ecuador’s territorial waters. Ecuador may be intending to declare its sovereignty [in the area].”
China attaches great importance to the incident and expects the Ecuador side to ensure the fairness and justice of the trial as well as protect the basic humanitarian needs and legitimate rights of the Chinese crew, the ambassador stressed.
“China will communicate with Ecuador in a frank manner to avoid damaging the good relations between the two countries,” he said.