Hong Kong activists plan new 'fishing trip' to disputed islands

HONG KONG (AFP) - A group of Hong Kong activists on Thursday announced they will embark on a "fishing trip" to disputed islands off Chinese shores this month, over a year after 14 were arrested in a similar venture.

The activists said they would embark on a "fishing trip in Chinese waters" on Nov 13, but did not reveal their full itinerary, saying only that one destination would be the Spratly Islands.

The Spratlys, known as Nansha Islands in China, are disputed between Taiwan, Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

"It is a fishing trip," activist Tsang Kin-shing said in a press conference.

"If there is no fish there, we will go somewhere else," he told AFP on the phone after the press conference.

Last year, the same group of activists underwent a similar trip, landing on the disputed islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Fourteen were arrested and deported by the Japanese authorities.

Also claimed by Taiwan, the Senkakus lie in an area with rich fishing grounds that is also believed to contain oil and gas deposits.

"We can go anywhere that has fish. We are eligible to go anywhere in Chinese waters," the owner of the fishing boat Lo Chau, another activist who embarked on the trip to the Senkakus last year, said.

Mr Lo said the trip will last more than 10 days and will include 15 activists from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.

Earlier plans to sail to the disputed waters were derailed by Hong Kong officials, who prevented the 45m vessel from setting sail for "safety reasons".

The boat, Kai Fung No. 2, has also undergone repairs following the rough landing in the Senkakus last year.

But Mr Lo said on Wednesday there was no reason for the government to stop the boat from departing this time, as it has a proper operating licence.

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