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Recent disputes OVER Huangyan Island have drawn worldwide attention. But beyond the clash of the two countries, the livelihood of a group of fishermen is being affected.
The morning sun drapes the small fishing town of Tanmen in its warm light. The harbour is soon bustling with fishermen preparing to set sail. Tanmen fishermen may not be able to compete with modern fishing fleets in open sea, but they are skilled divers and harvest rarer fish from the cracks and crevices of the coral reef. The shallow reefs around Huangyan Island and other islands on South China Sea have been their traditional fishing grounds for generations.
Li Bangping, fishing boat captain, said, "we mainly harvest shellfish, oysters, lobsters and sea cucumbers by diving down to the shallow sea floor and catch them."
But this tradition is being threatened. Barely one month ago, some of these fishermen were held at gun point by Philippine soldiers, ordered to leave the place where they have sailed for countless years. But the hardship of living off the sea has made Tanmen residents especially resilient. We found Chen Yiping in the backyard of his house; he bears an even older scar.
Chen Yiping, fishing boat captain, said, "It is getting harder for us fishermen. Other countries are taking over more and more islands, and we get chased off the islands we have worked for many years. "
His ship was rammed and sunk by a Philippine frigate in 1998, and he was imprisoned in Philippines for five months. But he spoke calmly about this experience. He took the helm from his father, just as his father before him, and he also took over a long family tradition, and the responsibility of keeping this tradition alive.
These fishermen may know very little about international politics, but their livelihood has been harmed the most in the dispute. They are the collateral damage in the dispute; their rights should be respected and protected.