The large-scale shift to telework brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is prompting businesses around the world to explore new avenues to engage with clients and friends. Harris Bricken is no exception, and we are happy to provide this podcast series: Global Law and Business, hosted by international attorneys Fred Rocafort and Jonathan Bench.

In Episode #38, we are joined by Wen Lii (李問), director of the Matsu Islands chapter of Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). We discuss:

  • Taiwan’s status and its relationship with China, in plain English
  • Matsu and its sister Kinmen islands unique position as Taiwanese islands on China’s shores
  • How China and Taiwan agreed on an informal schedule to exchange fire during the Cold War
  • How our guest helped the DPP establish a Matsu presence and dramatically improve their vote tally on the islands
  • Dressing up as a mussel shell and other tales from the Matsu campaign trail (additional photos below)
  • Concerns on the islands over illegal fishing and sand mining activities by Chinese ships
  • Reading, listening, and watching recommendations from:

We’ll see you next week!

If you have comments on this episode or if you’d like to suggest topics for future episodes, please email globallawbiz [at] harrisbricken [dot] com.

And please follow Fred and Jonathan on social media to stay informed on upcoming guests and topics:

This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.

Fred Rocafort  0:08 

Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other. The importance on the global stage of developing and developed nations waxes and wanes, while consumption and interconnectedness steadily increase all the while laws and regulations change incessantly requiring businesses to stay nimble. But how do we make sense of it all? Welcome to Global Law and Business hosted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys. I’m Fred Rocafort


Jonathan Bench  0:37 

and I’m Jonathan Bench. Every week, we take a targeted look at legal and economic developments in locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of international experts. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We covered the important the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.


Fred Rocafort  1:02 

We hope you enjoyed today’s podcast. Please connect with us on social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests.


Wen Lii is the director of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party’s or DPP’s newly launched Lienchiang County chapter located on the Matsu Islands, which are located 200 kilometers from Taipei, but only 20 kilometers off the coast of China’s Fujian Province. He is an analyst on foreign policy and regional security issues. Wen is also a former DPP spokesperson and 2020 legislative candidate for the Matsu Islands. He has in depth experience in research and policymaking concerning regional affairs, and was formerly affiliated with the Department of international and China affairs at the DPP, Taiwan’s National Security Council and the prospect Foundation, a Taiwan Think Tank. Besides his policy and political work, when is a columnist and public speaker with articles on politics and social cultural issues published in the diplomat, the Liberty times, crossing and other publications. He is a former journalist at the Taipei times with extensive writing experience in both English and Chinese as well as intermediate proficiency in Indonesian or Malay. Wen, [welcome] to Global Law and Business.


Wen Lii  2:38 

Yeah. And very glad to meet you all. Thank you.


Jonathan Bench  2:44 

Wen. We’re very excited to have you here today. And Fred and I are both avid Asia watchers. And so we’re eager to talk more about Matsu and the specific issues impacting the area and the residents. Honestly, I’d never heard of it. And I’m fascinated the idea of an island being so much closer to the mainland, you know that you haven’t been overrun by the mainland at this point. So we’d love some general context for our listeners who aren’t too familiar with Taiwan issues. I know these aren’t straightforward questions. But how would you describe Taiwan’s political situation? its relationship with China, and and perhaps later, we can talk more about Matsu specifically.


Wen Lii  3:20 

Yeah, thank you. That’s a very good question for the introduction for our audience as well. So Taiwan has never been politically controlled by the current People’s Republic of China, the communist government of China. Taiwan is an independent democratic nation in the western Pacific, with our own elected officials, our own currency, our own military, our own laws, are functionally independent of China. So we function as a fully independent political entity, which is why people often use the term de facto independent. De facto is an actually independent to describe Taiwan. Well, however, China claims Taiwan is part of its territory. So therefore, China obstructs other countries from officially establishing diplomatic ties with Taiwan. This makes Taiwan a fully functional country, but one with limited international recognition. But another layer of complexity is that the official name of Taiwan’s government is called the Republic of China, the ROC, which sounds very similar to the PRC, People’s Republic of China. That’s because the government of Taiwan used to rule China before the Chinese Communist revolution in 1949. And Taiwan has until this day remained under control of the old Chinese republican government. So though people talk about Taiwan independence Taiwan situation is different from other regional independence movements, such as Scotland seeking independence from the UK, or Catalonia seeking independence from Spain, because Taiwan is already functionally and in many aspects already independent. On the other hand, the relationship between the ROC and the PRC if we’re looking at other comparisons, it’s also a bit different from other two states rivalries from the Cold War such as North and South Korea, or East and West Germany. And perhaps because the ROC only rule is Taiwan, and a couple of other surrounding islands instead of half of China. So Taiwan has developed its own distinct identity and the ROC government on Taiwan no longer seeks to regain complete control of the entire territory of China. Some people described the old ROC government was reborn and reinvented here in Taiwan, and our current government is a fusion of the ROC and its institutions from other institutions from Taiwan’s previous Japanese colonial era. So I was I was trying to present some different comparisons about Taiwan situation with other countries. But in conclusion, Taiwan is an independent nation, which carries the legacy of Republican China. So I would say Taiwan is somewhere in the middle between a regional independence movement and to state rivalry from the Cold War. And recently, US Secretary of State Pompeo recently said that Taiwan shows the world what a quote unquote free China could achieve. And in a way, that’s true, Taiwan carries the legacy of a free China, on Taiwan might carry the hopes of many in the global Chinese speaking community. But on the other hand, Taiwan is not just the free version China since Taiwan also has its own trajectory, and its own uniqueness, including our own Japanese colonial history, then this duality is in between this is the key to understanding Taiwan.


Fred Rocafort  6:43 

Wen those comparisons were were actually very useful, I think they they really help illustrate the particularities of Taiwan’s situation. And frankly, there was a lot you said that would merit follow up questions. But if I’m not doing that, it’s simply because we’d be here all night. This is a topic that fascinates me. So adding to this complexity that you’ve described, I think Matsu and its sister Island group of Kinmen, add a further layer of complexity. These are these are fascinating places. And as a matter of fact, I would encourage everyone to open up their Google Map and and look for for Matsu, because unless you visualize the geographical situation of these islands, a lot of what we will talk about will not make so much sense. I haven’t been to to either island group I have been in in Shaman in southern Fujian And I can confirm that Kinmen is very close, you can see it, you can see it quite clearly. If I had to look for a comparison. For folks who have been to Seattle, it’s like looking over to the Olympic Peninsula. You know, it’s that close. So again, take a look at the at the map. But when I’d like to ask you, how is it that Taiwan ended up controlling these islands? I think Jonathan’s question a little bit earlier, or his comment a little bit earlier is on many people’s mind when they when they look at the map and say how is it that these islands were not taken over like the rest of of what we call Mainland China? And related to that, what has been the historical role that the islands have played in the years after the establishment of the People’s Republic when you basically had rival governments in in Taiwan and and China? How has life been like in these islands?


Wen Lii  8:47 

Yeah, the the landscape and the history of the islands have been affected greatly since the establishment of the PRC in 1949. And it’s truly a great idea for other listeners to look up the location of these islands on the map since it’s indeed a really fascinating part of the history. So Matsu is geographically located very close to China. And as you mentioned in the introduction, the Matsu islands are around 200 kilometers northwest of Taipei, from the main island of Taiwan and only 20 kilometers outside of Fujio city, which is the provincial capital of Fujian Province. From Matsui we can see the Chinese coastline in the distance with many wind power turbines and buildings visible, though not as closest Kinmen, I guess. Some buildings are visible from Kinmen you can see the building skyscrapers skyline of Shaman, which are only maybe less than five kilometers away and from Matsu it’s around between nine to 20 kilometers away. The islands are both pretty small. For Matsu, we have mainly five populated islands and some other smaller islands but the total landmass is around 29 square kilometers. So it’s it’s a small area. It’s smaller than Kinmen and when you visit the islands today, you will still notice a strong military presence. Although only a fraction of the what they used to be. So many tourists come to visit heritage sites that can be described as landscapes of the Cold War. For example, the main island of Matsu houses 95 coastal fortresses. So when I talk about coastal fortresses, I’m talking about tunnels and shooting platforms for artillery or machine guns. But many of these have been vacated. So they’re open for tourists to visit. And but this makes the islands of material testimony to the Cold War like a global Faultline similar to the DMZ between North and South Korea where the Berlin Wall in Germany. So these fortified islands contain a very high density of military structures that I wouldn’t say they make them world class heritage sites. So back to your question, how did Taiwan maintain control of the Kinmen and Matsu islands, which are just so close to the Chinese coast? Well, you go back to the history keep in mind that when the communists administratively took over Mainland China in 1949, the PRC just established its Navy, so they establish their Navy in 1949. Well, the ROC forces which located to Taiwan, maintain the superiority in the air and on sea for quite a while for several decades. So though the RSC government relocated to Taiwan, it continued to control many islands along the Chinese coast. Aside from Jimena Matsu, initially Darcy held on to Hainan Island province, which is unify ourselves south of cuando until 1950, so it held onto Hainan Island for another year after the comets revolution. And then you have the dosen Islands which are off the coast of Jiangsu Province that’s in central China. That’s way north even further north than Matsu. And then you have another even more unique situation with the Dutch and islands. Also outside of Jonestown, which Darcy held on until 1955. So it’s really interesting when you look at some historical tests, instead of talking about TPM, I was given Matsu which was which is what we talked about today, when we’re talking about the territorial extent of the RNC. Before 1955 people would talk about TPK and plus Bachchan, just another island group that we held on to so throughout this entire period, the two sides engaged in skirmishes and limited, actually guerrilla warfare along the coast with the RLC, often sending undercover troops or even guerrilla fighter troops behind enemy lines. And many of these troops were based in Matsu or other smaller islands surrounding the mainland and of Matsu.


And but the ROC forces eventually lost many of the other islands such as the ones I mentioned bacha behind and joson because I would say they were logistically difficult to defend since they were located too far away from the main island. I want. On the other hand, Kinmen and Matsu were easier to defend for the ROC forces because of the shorter supply lines. They’re right across the Taiwan Strait from Taiwan. The two Island groups are happened to be located outside two major cities in Fujian. So this gave them a strategic value during the Cold War. As we mentioned, Japan is outside the coast of Ghana. It’s a commercial sector, and Matsu is off the coast of future city and future city is a political sector. So these were the two points that can pay in the strategic value for the armed forces. So they not only serve as a first layer of defense for Taiwan, but in the past, they also acted as a potential springboard for troops in case the ROC attempted to launch counter attack on Mainland China. And this potential ability to attack Fujian province was also a way to deter threats from the PRC. So when we’re looking back at life for the residents here in the islands, it was definitely different from the main island of Taiwan. Although Taiwan was also under authoritarian rule and even martial law, you had an even more strict and stringent situation here in Kinmen and Matsu we had a military administration instead of civilian government since their proximity to China. And in 1958, the PRC launched an attack on Kinmen, also called the second Taiwan street crisis. So the PRC fired 10s and 1000s Artillery at Kinmen and Matsu, and they attempted amphibious landing gentlemen, one of the smaller islands in the Gemini that group in 1958, which ultimately failed as a got repelled by the ROC Navy. And another factor was us support, since the US provided air and naval support by sending the US Navy Seventh Fleet to protect sea lane transportation routes between Taiwan and Japan, while also providing the ROC Air Force, providing our fighter aircraft with better muscles, which gave ROC fighters an advantage in fights against the Soviet MiG series fighters in the air near Matsu and Fujio. And the US also stationed the military advisors in democracy. So after 1958, the PRC never attempted an amphibious landing and Matsu. So they, they they landed at that with Kinmen, but between 1958 and nine up until 1979. So for two decades, China continued to fire artillery and fire bombs at Kinmen and Matsu and ROC forces fired back. But there was a agreement between a tacit agreement between the two sides to only open fire on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. That’s a very, we could say a very strange situation. So the two sides would fire cannons at each other on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on alternate days of the week. And they would maintain peace on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. So this continued until 1979, when the US officially recognized the PRC as China. So that’s, that’s a bit of the historic row of  the Island’s and that’s not too much or too complicated. For an introduction went International.


Jonathan Bench  16:50 

I thought it was fascinating. I mean, I’m on Google Maps as we’re talking and tracking around the islands, and I’ve been behind on islands. So of course I know how far away it is from Taiwan. It’s really, really very interesting. And of course, I was interested in you know, in the seeming the Japanese name of the island to the right of Matsu islands. So it makes sense now all the all the interconnected history, I mean, Asian Asian history is very complicated. And there’s all there a lot of aggression in the history. So anyway, it’s fascinating for me to see what names stick and what names haven’t.


Wen Lii  17:24 

Yeah, the name of Matsu will probably just coincidentally sounded like Japanese. But yeah, you would see a lot of other place names particularly in in Taiwan that are actually transliterated from Japanese, you write down the kanji characters, and you pronounce them in Mandarin. And that’s the name of the city today.


Jonathan Bench  17:43 

Interesting. Yeah. Wow. Well, then what’s your connection to Matsu, I’m really curious about that, you know, now that you live there, and kind of what it’s like to be on the frontlines of the island, you know, facing down the PRC, and, you know, how much does that impact day to day life these days, and also your explanation of the of the alternate days of cannon fire as is. So it’s so crazy, like that kind of stuff.


Wen Lii  18:11 

Yeah, it continued for two decades, but for a large part of the time, they didn’t actually use the really heavy ammunition, they fired a lot of empty shelves with propaganda leaflets contained inside so so you would hear stories from the older generation about children having to pick up the communist propaganda leaflets, and they were required to turn in the leaflets or else they would face a punishment or fine or something. Similar things probably occurred across the streets. And in Moscow, we had a unit called the balloon brigade or the balloon unit. So they would fly balloons, hot air balloons over to mainland China, containing propaganda leaflets and other day to day materials like toothpaste or cookies or, or other snacks to provide our mainland Chinese compatriots and to convince them that the ROC is a better alternative. So that was the stuff that they did back in the Cold War. It’s fascinating. It’s just a really interesting part of history. So back to your question. My own experiences were actually quite dramatic. So my family does not come from Matsu, and I only settled down in Matsu around two years ago, even though I occasionally visited Matsu in the past as a visitor or a tourist. So I settled down in Matsu around a year and a half ago when I announced to run for legislator in Matsu in the 2020 elections. So I made that announcement in August 2019. And many people considered it an impossible race since my political party the Democratic Progressive Party, we have not nominated a candidate in Matsu for over a decade for I think 12 years. And Matsu has been seen as the weakest district in the country for the DPP. We call it a deep blue District, which means that most of the people here for a lot of historical and cultural reasons of support the KMT. The current opposition party in Taiwan, the party of Jiang Kai Shek, the DPP historically only garnered less than 5% of the vote, when we last nominated a legislative candidate less than 5%. So Matsu was also the only county or city in the entire country without the local DPP county office or City Office. So what happened was, I ran in this legislative race, I lost in the race, as most people expected me to lose. But we pushed president tiny wins votes share to up to 20%. So we set a record high for president Ty’s share of the vote here in Matsu and also for the legislative vote. My vote was not as high as 21, but we made significant gains. So that was enough for us to get convinced that DPP is set up a county chapter in Matsu our final and last county chapter and it which is in many ways, historically significant, we call it the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle for completing the DPP’s national outreach. I chose to ran in Moscow, partly because our view was an important border area that is very close to China, and a place where many important issues need to be addressed, including the environment, disease control, maritime resources, and security, of course, and I think it would be a mistake for any political party to neglect this region. And which was why I decided to run for office here to launch a county chapter here to, let’s say, to correct, then the lack of my own party. And I think the rise in votes for presidents high and the DPP and Matsu. And Kinmen well, is symbolic since the DPP is the party that supports Taiwan sovereignty and democracy. And our party tends to be more skeptical and cautious of interactions with the Congress Party. So by building a party chapter here, it symbolizes the ddps efforts to reach out to beyond our traditional voter base. So some people often assume that since the outlying islands are culturally and historically connected with Fujian Province, then the voters here will not be critical towards the Communist Party. That’s traditional logic. But I think it’s a logic that merits criticism, because what we are seeing here in the younger generation here is that people can be simultaneously proud of their Fujian heritage, and the stand against communists, authoritarianism. So that’s, that’s a different argument. That’s a different approach that we’re taking. And the Communist Party tries to tell the world that if a person identifies with Chinese culture, then they must support the Communist Party. They’re linking the two together. And what we are trying to do is to break that link, we see a growing number of people that are both in Taiwan and overseas that might identify with Chinese culture because of their family connections and their own personal history, but they simultaneously stand against the idea of China and Taiwan. So I think this speaks to a wider audience in the Chinese speaking world on even on a global scale. The traditional argument to support Taiwan sovereignty wouldn’t be to emphasize Taiwan’s cultural differences with China. And here in my work in demand, we can develop a different argument that supports Taiwan sovereignty, but that’s not based on cultural identity differences, but rather on common values between Taiwan and Jimmy Dore, Matsu, democratic values or values about human rights and democracy. This builds a coalition between traditional supporters of Taiwanese independence and people in the pan Chinese world that are pro democratic and anti communist. And this actually includes many people in the main island of Taiwan and the outlying counties, islands, and as well as overseas ethnic Chinese, you will notice that President tide places an emphasis on maintaining sovereignty, regardless of support for an RSC identity, or a separate Taiwan identity. So the DPP itself is also reaching out. And also related to the dualism of the RSC and Taiwan, that I mentioned earlier when I’m talking about when I was talking about Taiwan’s history. So today, the islands are more more and more focused on tourism, and it’s no longer directly considered as a as a frontline for battle between the two sides and the ferry there were even very roots established in 2001 as part of the mini three links between the two But we still face many other non traditional challenges non traditional threats to the environment or the security or the economy of the islands. And I think we, we can get into that a bit later.


Fred Rocafort  25:15 

I’m thinking of possible analogies to the United States. And in fact, I think somebody could make a good movie out of this general topic, right, like somebody, I don’t know, like trying to open up a republican party branch in Seattle. Right or, or, or vice versa, you know, running for office for the democrats in deepest South Dakota. You know, one thing that I always think about is the people that do run because you know, when you look at the results, in some of these districts that are heavily red or blue, in almost every instance, especially for the National races, there is someone that runs for the other party. And in in many cases, they know that they’re going to lose, and that in some cases, the margin is going to be considerable. Right. And I and I can’t help but have some admiration for folks who are in that role, which is the role that you took, I’d like to take a step back and ask you more generally, about your motivation to go into into politics. In your previous answer. You made the reasons for your membership in the in the DPP. You made them quite clear, but But still, to take this step of actively becoming involved in politics, that speaks to a greater commitment. So I’d like to know a little bit about what motivated you to to run. And perhaps you can share with us what that experience was like, you know, what, what was it like campaigning? Did you? I don’t know. I’m just kind of curious. Did anyone maybe not president Tsai herself, but did you get support from anyone flying over to, to to campaign with you?


Wen Lii  26:57 

Oh, yeah. Yeah. President Tsai flew over here.


Fred Rocafort  26:59 

Oh, fantastic. Fantastic. Fantastic. Well, yeah. Well, if there are any other anecdotes that you that you can share about your experience with live, we’d love to hear them.


Wen Lii  27:08 

Yeah, yeah, sure. It’s, it was definitely a very non traditional campaign. So when I started here, in Matsu. Well, as I mentioned, we didn’t have a county office. And we have no county senators, we had no county counselors or village chiefs, we have zero elected officials in the entire county. So keep in mind, we have we have less than 5% of the vote. So I had to pursue very non traditional campaign, I started out by strapping a balloon on my back, like a large balloon around one metre in diameter. And that had my campaign slogans written on the balloon, and I walked on foot around the five major islands of Matsu, so that they had a combined distance of like 70 kilometers. So I would take one day to walk on foot around the main island, and then I will rest for a day and then I’ll just walk around the other island. And I use this marathon like walking campaign to start my campaign. And we even use some really, some even more humorous ways of campaigning. I actually dressed up as a clam, a muscle, essentially, clams, actually a muscle as muscles are one of the main seafood products here in March. So I dressed up as a clam, walking around the seafood markets and talking to elderly folks who actually sell clams in the market. Yeah, that kind of kind of went well with. So it went well with the internet audience, we thought it was a crazy idea to for a candidate to dress up as a clam. But it also went surprisingly well with the older folks here in Matsu who likes to eat muscles and would like to sew and grow muscles is an important key food industry. A lot of interesting stories and non traditional stories that I share about campaigns. I started out in policy work. I used to be a reporter for an English newspaper in Taiwan. And then I worked in the international affairs department. Initially, I didn’t expect myself to run as a candidate, but back in 2019. So the DPP was still recovering from its landslide loss in the 2018 midterms. So we lost really badly in the 2018 midterms. And then we had to dive down into the 2020 presidential and legislative elections right and the party was Looking for non traditional candidates and non traditional strategies. And what the party came up with was to field young candidates in are the so called difficult or weak districts around the country. But initially, they didn’t consider Jimena Matsu since the DBB has left these two counties without a candidate for a long time. So initially, the party considered recommending me to run in certain districts within Taipei City or New Taipei City, or shinju. county or Mayor Lee County of these districts that are heavily KMT leaning or blue leaning. And so when people suggested me to run I, initially I was an interested because for a long time, I thought of myself as as more of a policy researcher on either international issues or cross strait issues or even on security or defense. So in the end, when people in the party really adamantly wanted more young people to run into difficult districts, I suggested myself, hey, I kind of liked my school. And it seems like a really fascinating place with a lot of code where history and I think it’s a meaningful move, and even symbolic move to field a candidate in Matsu. Would I be able to run as a candidate as a DPP candidate in Matsu, and people were initially very surprised many thought it was a joke. I think many people laughed at the initial suggestion, but I insisted on running in Matsu for but because for Matsu it carries such a tremendous symbolic meaning. And it allows us to explore new concepts to reach the voters, and including conceptualizing Taiwan as a plurality of islands instead of a single island as an archipelagic. Home and it’s I call it. And I also use experiences from Matsu, to think about other issues that are prevalent to the entire country and to reach voters in the middle that dumped them may live in Matsu. But some of them might live in other areas in Taiwan, such as people who support a Chinese ethnic identity who live in Taiwan, but people who are simultaneously against communism. And these are non traditional voters for the DPP, part of the mission Asides from broadening our basis to ensure that DPP supporters in in Taipei and other areas have a better understanding of the outlying islands since the history is so complex, and it’s sometimes unfamiliar, not only for a foreign audience, but also unfamiliar but for, for people, in Taipei unfamiliar for people in other parts of Taiwan, especially for people in the DPP. So when there is no mutual understanding it further alienates the outlying islands away from Taiwan, and that’s something we want to avoid. That’s part of my experience as a candidate here.


Jonathan Bench  33:02 

So, being so close to the mainland, do you feel like the military risk is heightened? Do you feel like if there were a strike on Taiwan that that these close islands would potentially be hit first, and would be of a high profile but lower impact area?


Wen Lii  33:19 

Well, we do hear concerns from residents here that want to avoid confrontation with China, and especially among the older generation, who experienced the Monday, Wednesday and Friday, shelling experience before the 1970s. And sometimes, people talk about how Kinmen and Matsu would be the first to come under fire from China. But I think comparatively, I think in recent years, security for these outlying islands have become more similar, the situation has become more similar to overall national defense concerns for that of the main island of Taiwan. And part of this is because changes in military technology, which means the PRC would not necessarily have to take Kinmen and Matsu before an attack on Taiwan. So, in fact, China’s recent incursions by sending a lot of aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, so China’s recent actions mostly occurred in the southwestern portion of Taiwan Strait, which is further away from bottom. And perhaps this is surprising to an international audience. But people here in the islands talk less about the plane incursions compared to other parts of Taiwan or compared to national media. So in terms of defense, it comes down to whether at a national level, Taiwan is able to deter an attack from happening in the first place, and so far we have mostly maintained peace for the past 70 years. And one thing to note is that a large scale, amphibious invasion is one of the most difficult tactical military feats to accomplish, making it extremely risky for the offensive side, especially for relatively inexperienced militaries such as China. From a defensive point of view, we need to ensure that of course, the costs of an attack vastly outweigh the benefits by developing selective technologies such as anti ship missiles, or air defense missiles, which I want it actually has a good grasp of technology currently, just won’t be our row instead of attempting to get in an endless arms race with China. But for Matsu, I think the current focus is on many issues that more directly affect the residents here, which are sometimes non military. So prominent examples would be illegal sand mining, illegal fishing by Chinese, very aggressive Chinese fishermen, close to Matsu and marine debris, marine trash drifting from China. And of course, you have the pandemic and border control issues, a lot of these threats to our industries and to our environment that warrants a stronger protection from Taiwan’s Coast Guard. And they’re their non military issues. But there are also issues that affect our security. So you see that these are issues that occur in the first place due to mountains location on the border. And dredging has been our main concern, because it’s catastrophic to the marine environment. And when you pump up so much sand from the seabed it affects our fishing industries and affects our tourism. coastal erosion and even damaging infrastructure such as underwater cables are underwater Internet and Phone connection cables between the different islands of Matsu have been broken by these dredging ships more than four or five times this this year alone, and it costs a fortune to repair and fix these cables. And so this is about infrastructure security. And we do sand dredging as a criminal act, we have urged countless times to for China to do its part in law enforcement since the sand dredging activities are also considered illegal according to their laws according to the PRC laws as well. And at the moment, we do not think of dredging as a direct military threat sensitive ships are far too slow and cumbersome for the maritime militia to use but they can be seen as a so called gray zone tactic for harassment. And dredgers can provoke accidents or conflicts between civilian ships which which we always want to avoid with China. So what we’re doing right now, we’re stationing larger ships in the area with water cannons by our coast guard. We recently just one or two weeks ago, we passed a new bill, a new law to raise the monetary fines to around 3 million US dollars for illegal dredging that’s like really, really high monetary fines for illegal dredging and a jail sentence of seven years, which previously didn’t exist. And we also made it legal to use more diverse ways to process the sand treasures that we have captured. So instead of mandatorily auctioning the ships that we captured, we allow more diverse methods such as disassembling the ships or even using them for military target practice after we have cleared the ships. So it’s just a lot of issues that you see that occur because of matsuzaki location on the border. And these gray zone issues that are between a military threat and a non military threat that we are currently trying to address.


Fred Rocafort  39:01  

Wen this has been a fascinating conversation. Before we let you go we’d like to ask you for any recommendations that you might have for us.


Wen Lii  39:10 

So at the moment my my main recommendation will actually be about tourism. So I would recommend everyone to consider visiting Kinmen and Matsu when the pandemic is over. And this is especially for people who are interested in Cold War history. You will see many similarities with underground tunnels of Vietnam or the general atmosphere you see alongside the Berlin wall or the DMZ zone between North and South Korea. And mazu would definitely be a treat for history lovers. A lot of my friends, foreign friends will come visit Matsu have enjoyed the history and the landscape surrounding this cultural heritage and also people who enjoy seafood People like riding around in boats citizen is the island hopping experience of Matsu lets you visit the different islands without the quaint villages and old architecture that’s really different from any other part of Taiwan, but also different from Fujian Province across the coast. So that’s my main recommendation. Welcome to Matsu.


Fred Rocafort  40:22 

That’s one recommendation that I definitely hope to follow. It’s it’s something that’s been on my to do list for a while, I’d actually like to take the ferry at some point. And and do that. Jonathan, what about you? What’s your recommendation for this week,


Jonathan Bench  40:38 

I watched and listened to a webinar done by one of our colleagues, who’s in Europe, and two other European lawyers about the kind of landscape of cannabis in Europe. It was very interesting. One of the lawyers was from Switzerland. So he was able to talk about Swiss being independent from the EU. And you know, in terms of how it deals with cannabis, and then the other attorney was German, and he was talking about more use topics. Really interesting. You know, even someone like me who consider myself fairly savvy in US cannabis matters and and growing interest in other international jurisdictions. Very interesting. And I certainly recommend that for anyone who wants to get a peek into what’s going on in Europe in the cannabis trade. Fred, what about you?


Fred Rocafort  41:21 

Well, first of all, I would like to endorse your recommendation. I agree that that was a great webinar, and encourage everyone who’s interested in the topic to take a look. My own recommendation is a movie that I saw recently on Netflix, it’s an Italian movie, the English name is Rose Island, I’m assuming that the official name and Italian is different. But it’s a comedy really, based on a true story. Essentially, this Italian engineer decided to build an island, just outside Italian territorial waters. So there’s a little bit of a connection with our topic today, right? This whole idea of islands close to another country. And this guy ran into some issues with the authorities who didn’t like the fact that he could basically break Italian law or ignore Italian law, he claimed that it was an independent country and he actually at least according to the movie, right, I’m sure they took some some artistic liberties, but they they took the case to the UN and to the European Commission. But it but it’s a good movie, you know, it’s it’s entertaining. The acting is very good. Very enjoyable, and at the same time, has a little bit of that serious undertone. So Rose Island, available on Netflix. And with that, one, I’d like to thank you, once again, for coming on the podcast. Really, really, really enjoy today’s conversation, and I really hope that we get to have you back on before too long.


Jonathan Bench  43:00 

Thank you Wen. It was great having you.


Wen Lii  43:02 

All right. Thank you so much. Thanks, Fred. Thanks, Jonathan.


Jonathan Bench  43:07 

We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. We look forward to connecting with you on social media to continue discussing developments in global law and business. This podcast was produced by Harris Bricken, with executive producer Madeline Williams music composed by Steven Schmidt. Tune in next week for another episode. We’ll see you then.


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