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China on Wednesday urged coast guards from the Republic of Korea to cease using violence when enforcing the law, following the death of a Chinese fisherman who was shot by an ROK coast guard during a raid.
Experts and media from both sides said the two governments should solve the fishing disputes between China and the ROK as soon as possible.
The ROK should take effective measures to stop violence in law enforcement and make sure such incidents do not happen again, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a regular news conference on Wednesday.
Republic of Korea's coast guards escort Chinese fishermen for investigation upon their arrival on a fishing boat at a port of the coast guard in Mokpo, southwest of Seoul, on Wednesday. ROK coast guard said it was holding 23 Chinese fishermen in custody for questioning after an ROK raid that left one Chinese crew member dead. Hyong Min-woo / Yonhap via Reuters
The department of consular affairs of the ministry, the Chinese embassy in Seoul and the consulate-general in Gwangju, Teng Anjun, immediately lodged solemn representations to the ROK, Hong said.
Teng visited the fishermen, who were held in a port in ROK's Mokpo, according to China Central Television.
'The Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Chinese embassy in Seoul will closely monitor the investigation process and urge the ROK to thoroughly investigate the matter so as to protect the safety, lives and legal rights of Chinese fishermen," he said.
Chinese fisherman Zhang, 44, was shot with a rubber bullet on Tuesday by ROK coast guard who was trying to arrest him during a raid.
Zhang suffered an injury to his chest and was transported to a nearby hospital by helicopter. He later died from his injuries.
Rubber bullets are rubber or rubber-coated projectiles that can be fired from either standard firearms or dedicated riot guns.
They are intended to be a non-lethal alternative to metal projectiles, but a report from the United Kingdom has shown that rubber bullets can also cause permanent disabilities, deformities or even death.
According to the Yonhap, the coast guard seized two Chinese ships with sailors onboard, as the ROK suspected them of conducting 'illegal fishing" in the disputed Exclusive Economic Zone.
ROK media urged China to educate its fishermen in an effort to avoid tragedies caused by 'illegal fishing".
Hong told reporters that the Chinese government has taken real measures to educate Chinese fishermen and asks them to fish legally.
Huang Youfu, an expert on Korean studies from the Minzu University of China, said the escalation of violence in the disputes was worrisome because the ROK coast guards had never used weapons such as rubber bullets in similar cases before.
'Fishermen belong to a vulnerable group in society, they are not to be blamed", said Huang.
'The key to solving the problem is that the two countries should reach a binding agreement to solve their fishing disputes as soon as possible."
Seoul and Beijing can no longer afford to waste time and must cooperate sincerely to find fundamental solutions, said The Korea Times.
On Tuesday, China and the ROK pledged to increase the scale of fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone, but failed to reach a consensus on how to deal with violent enforcement and resistance.
In recent years, conflicts have frequently occurred between China and the ROK in the disputed Exclusive Economic Zone over fishery resources.
In December 2010, a patrol ship of the ROK coast guard clashed with a Chinese fishing ship, leaving one Chinese dead and another injured. An ROK coast guard was also injured. In 2011 an ROK coast guard died when detaining a Chinese fishing boat.
Liu Yedan contributed to this story.