Min Ping Yu No. 5540 incident

Min Ping Yu No. 5540 incident was a tragedy that occurred on July 21–22, 1990, where a repatriation operation of 76 mainland Chinese illegal immigrants from Taiwan to Fujian carried out by the Republic of China Military Police caused the deaths of 25 people by suffocation, who had been kept in sealed holds of the boat by the military.

Min Ping Yu No. 5540 incident
Native name 闽平渔5540号事件
English nameMin Ping Yu No. 5540 incident
DateJuly 21–22, 1990 (1990-07-21 1990-07-22)
LocationAodi, Yilan County, Taiwan Province, Republic of China.
CauseTaiwan's military police forced the illegal immigrants into sealed holds of the boat for repatriation.
Participants76 Fujian residents being repatriated, Republic of China Military Police


After the lifting of martial law in Taiwan in 1987, there was an influx of illegal immigrants from Fujian across the strait to Taiwan looking for a better life. Since the ROC government adhered to the Three Noes policy and refused to have any contact with the PRC government, the Taiwanese authorities regularly commandeered seized mainland Chinese fishing boats to repatriate the illegal immigrants and had never informed the mainland Chinese authorities about the repatriation operations. The Taiwan Garrison Command was in charge of the repatriation. To prevent the deportees from forcing the boats to go back to Taiwan, the military police ordered that the deportees be kept in sealed holds throughout the journey and the boats were accompanied by Taiwanese military vessels.[1][2]


Min Ping Yu No. 5540 was an 18-tonne fishing boat of length 17.5 m and width 4.37 m. It set sail with a crew of six on July 12 from Pingtan County, Fujian to the Taiwan Strait. The crew members were trading with Taiwanese fishermen when the ROC military police arrested them and seized the boat.[3]

On July 21, the ROC military police ordered this boat and another boat to carry a total of 123 illegal immigrants and depart from Aodi, Yilan County, Taiwan in the morning. The other boat suffered a problem one hour after departure, so Min Ping Yu No. 5540 was ordered to tow the boat back to shore and the deportees were sent back to detention center. The repatriation restarted at 2 pm. 13 illegal immigrants from Pingtan County, Fujian who had come on some other boat were ordered to drive Min Ping Yu No. 5540 back to Fujian. 63 illegal immigrants with hands tied by plastic tapes were forced by armed officers to enter four of the holds at the bow of the boat. The crew members were then ordered to seal the covers of the holds with new long nails of 15.5 cm long given by the officers.[3]

In the early morning of July 22, fishermen found the boat stranded on a beach in Aoqian Town, Pingtan County, Fujian. They saw that two holds were each covered by two large wooden planks, of which one was pried open and one was still nailed, and there were corpses in the holds. They reported immediately to the police and the border guards, who came and opened the remaining two planks, which took more than half an hour as the planks were firmly nailed. There were 11 corpses in one hold, 14 corpses and a very weak man named Lin Licheng of age 25 in another hold. Lin Licheng said that people started getting thirsty and suffocated in less than an hour, so they called for help, hit the covers with their heads and scratched them with their fingers, yet it was futile. He tried to breathe through a tiny hole in the compartment wall, but he also fainted later.[3][4][5]

The fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh holds of volume 2.8 m3, 3.6 m3, 4.9 m3, 5.8 m3 contained 5, 15, 20 and 23 people respectively. According to survivors' accounts, since the seventh hold was close to the bridge which blocked the sight from Taiwanese military, the crew opened its covers as soon as the sky went dark. When the boat arrived on shore, the crew members opened the covers of the other holds and saw dead people in the fifth and sixth holds, so they fled in great fear.[3]

Autopsy showed that all 25 victims had clear signs of asphyxia, and had injuries on their heads and fingers from attempts to break the covers, but they had no fatal injuries. Combining with the circumstantial evidence that they had been trapped in tiny, hot, humid and sealed holds, the autopsy thus concluded that they had all died from asphyxia.[3]


The mainland Chinese authorities condemned the Taiwanese authorities for their "extremely inhumane" treatment of illegal immigrants, and demanded that the Taiwanese authorities punish those responsible for the tragedy seriously and ensure that similar incident would not happen again.[4]

Taiwanese government officials and media claimed that the victims were killed in fighting between factions on board the boat.[6][1] The claim was refuted by the autopsy results and the fact that these people were crammed in tiny spaces where they could not stand straight and could hardly move, making it impossible for a fight to occur.[3]

The ROC government arranged a high-profile repatriation operation for the media to witness on August 13. However, the operation ended in another tragedy when the fishing boat Min Ping Yu No. 5202 which carried 50 illegal immigrants was hit by an accompanying military vessel and sank, and 21 people were drowned.[4]

The Taiwanese authorities denied any responsibility for the Min Ping Yu No. 5540 tragedy. On August 15, ROC President Lee Teng-hui said that the public should understand and support the military for its hard work in carrying out the repatriation tasks.[4][7] In a press conference, ROC Premier Hau Pei-tsun said the Min Ping Yu No. 5540 incident was an "accident", criticized the "harsh demand on the military" from the Taiwan public and praised the military for dutifully carrying out its tasks in spite of strong criticisms.[4][8] The Control Yuan released its investigation report on October 10, which concluded that the military had nothing to do with the incident, claiming that it was the chief crewman who had decided to seal the holds to prevent other people from taking over the boat. The investigators had not been able to go to mainland China for the investigation and had relied on the rebuttals of the mainland media news reports by Taiwan Garrison Command and Ministry of National Defense.[9][10]

To avoid any more tragedies, Red Cross Society of China and Red Cross Society of the Republic of China started discussion and reached the Kinmen Agreement on September 12, so that future repatriation operations would be carried out by the Red Cross organizations instead.[5][2]

See also


  1. "1990年8月8日 中國來台偷渡客的遣返悲劇". 《公視新聞網》. 2010-08-08. Archived from the original on 2013-12-02. Retrieved 2013-11-16.
  2. "台海鉤沉:金門協議「五無協議」 達成六項共識". 台海網. 2010-09-12.
  3. 王运才; 褚言义 (1990-08-21). "闽平渔5540"号惨案真相" (in Chinese). Renmin Ribao. Archived from the original on 2015-06-10. Retrieved 2012-05-08.
  4. 陈玲 (2008-10-23). "从"千岛湖事件"与"闽平渔事件"的比较看两岸对和平统一的诚意". 民革中央. 中国国民党革命委员会中央委员会. Archived from the original on 2013-10-15. Retrieved 2012-06-14. Originally published as 陈玲 (1994-08-15). "从"千岛湖事件"与"闽平渔事件"的比较看两岸对和平统一的诚意". 团结 (in Chinese). 1994 (4): 21–23.
  5. "歷史悲劇/大陸偷渡風雲 從生命慘劇到金馬人道遣返--海西晨報". Ma Tsu Daily News. 2013-06-21. Retrieved 2019-07-19.
  6. "遣返大陸客25人悶死案 陳履安指中共報導疑點百出 強調我一向秉人道立場處理,且據向平潭公安局及目擊者査證,該事件係閩、粵籍偷渡客羣鬥結果". 中國時報 (in Chinese). 1990-08-05. p. 1.
  7. "1990年台湾军警虐杀25名福建渔民事件". 观察者网. 2013-05-15. Retrieved 2019-07-19.
  8. "大陸偷渡客要遣返 郝揆說這政策不變 海軍軍區司令向監委簡報詳情 指閩平漁圖擺脫監視偏離航線". 華僑日報 (in Chinese). 1990-08-16. p. 11.
  9. "閩平漁兩案 窒息案與作業無關 撞船案調查將公布". 華僑日報 (in Chinese). 1990-10-12. p. 11.
  10. "戰後臺灣歷史年表--學術版". Academia Sinica. Retrieved 2019-07-19.

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