GUANGZHOU, April 20 (Xinhua) -- China's most advanced fishery patrol ship on Friday arrived in waters off the coast of Huangyan Island in the South China Sea, where Chinese fishermen were harassed last week by a Philippine navy gunboat, drawing protests from Beijing.
The 2,580-tonne Yuzheng-310 set sail from the southern port city of Guangzhou on Wednesday. Its mission is to protect China's territorial waters and ensure the safety of Chinese fishermen, said a statement released by the South China Sea Fishery Bureau under the Ministry of Agriculture.
"In the period of time that follows, the ship will go on regular patrols, help Chinese fishermen in the area and look into other issues concerning fishing activity there," the statement said.
The Yuzheng-310 is equipped with advanced marine technology and has the ability to carry helicopters. The ship's maiden voyage was made to the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea in 2010.
China's fishery authorities have sent ships on patrol and shoal-guarding missions in the South China Sea 16 times so far this year.
Patrols in the South China Sea were beefed up to protect the country's maritime rights and interests, as Chinese fishing boats have been frequently harassed or seized by armed ships of neighboring countries, officials have said.
Dai Yudao, a local official from the fishing town of Tanmen in Hainan province, said more than 700 of the town's fishermen have been arrested, robbed, assaulted or rudely asked to leave by the armed forces of neighboring countries while fishing in the South China Sea over the last 12 years.
"We are frequently harassed by foreign ships in waters near the disputed islands and shoals," Dai said. "Our lives are threatened. But we will not back down, because locals have been fishing in the South China Sea for generations."
In the most recent case, twelve Chinese fishing boats were harassed on April 10 by a Philippine Navy gunboat while taking refuge from harsh weather in a lagoon near Huangyan Island.
Two Chinese Marine Surveillance ships conducting routine patrols in the area later came to the fishermen's rescue.
Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying on Wednesday summoned the charge d'affaires of the Philippine Embassy in China to lodge a representation over the incident at Huangyan Island following a previous summons on Sunday.
Fu said the harassment of Chinese fishermen by a Philippine naval ship in a lagoon near Huangyan Island has aroused "great concern" on the part of China.
Huangyan Island is an integral part of Chinese territory, Fu said, adding that there is no basis for the Philippines' claim to the island and that China cannot accept their claim.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said China's sovereignty over Huangyan Island has full legal basis. He said China was the first to discover Huangyan Island, name it, incorporate it into its territory and exercise jurisdiction over it.
Liu said on Wednesday that China and the Philippines are maintaining diplomatic communication concerning the issue.