CHINESE WORKERS PROVIDE BACKBONE FOR TAIWAN'S STRONG FISHING INDUSTRY 107,000 WORK FOR RIVAL NATION

CHINESE WORKERS PROVIDE BACKBONE FOR TAIWAN'S STRONG FISHING INDUSTRY 107,000 WORK FOR RIVAL NATION

More than 107,000 Chinese have found work aboard fishing boats owned by the industry in rival Taiwan since 1988, and demand for them is rising, an official newspaper said.

In the first half of 1995, Chinese companies signed 1,303 contracts worth $96.79 million with Taiwan fishing firms and sent 19,129 fishermen to work on their boats, International Business reported recently.The increase in labor contracts comes as Beijing hurls insults at Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui for trying to boost the international profile of the island, which China regards as a rebel province. Taiwan bars direct contact with mainland China.

Major Chinese newspapers recently carried a lengthy attack on the Taiwan president, accusing him of trying to split China and refusing

conciliation with Beijing.

From 1988, when the business started, until the end of 1994, 88,692 Chinese fishermen worked in Taiwan boats. Of those, 22,951 worked on ocean-going vessels and the remainder on vessels fishing closer to Taiwan, the newspaper said.

In 1994, the figure was 21,465 fishermen, with a contract value of $144.44 million, it said.

The majority came from the two east coast provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian, closest to Taiwan, while an increasing number are coming from inland provinces, it said.

A meeting in the Fujian provincial capital of Fuzhou recently discussed how to improve the business and resolve problems, such as agents delaying payments to fishermen and poor management of some contracts, it said.

Taiwan fishing boats must employ Chinese fishermen since they cannot find local people to do the work. The mainland fishermen are not allowed to set foot on Taiwan.

But while business ties between China and Taiwan improve, political ties are worsening.

Last Thursday was the 10th day of missile tests that Beijing has said it would carry out north of Taiwan.

Both communist-governed Beijing and Nationalist-ruled Taipei, rivals since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, say they want reunification, but on very different terms.

Relations between Beijing and Taipei plunged to their lowest ebb in June since tensions began easing in the late 1980s.

China has sought to push the island into diplomatic isolation.

China has accused Taiwan's navy of killing more than 50 Chinese fishermen and injuring 100 since 1990.

In the first six months of 1995, 15 Chinese fishermen were killed or injured in 12 incidents in which Taiwan's military allegedly opened fire on Chinese fishermen.