Taiwan residents on remote islands have begun leaving in droves after two underwater internet cables linking the communities to the outside world were cut, reports say.
Authorities in Taiwan said China was behind the severing of the cables linking the 14,000 residents on the Matsu Islands with the outside world.
Now many islanders – reliant on the internet for booking a doctor’s appointment, paying an electricity bill or receiving a package – are leaving, the Telegraph reports.
Lin Shengyue, aged 80, said younger people were leaving in droves.
“It’s more of a problem for younger people glued to their mobiles.
“That’s why all of them ran off to the main (Taiwan) island.”
He said the only people left were “old fogies'” and the soldiers who guard the islands, some of which are only 10km from the China coast.
Taiwanese officials blamed two Chinese ships for cutting the cables last month.
But Taiwan’s government stopped short of calling it a deliberate act on the part of Beijing, and there was no direct evidence to show the Chinese ships were responsible.
The islanders have been forced to hook up to a limited internet via microwave radio transmission, a more mature technology, as backup. It means they could wait hours to send a text. Calls would drop, and videos were unwatchable.
“A lot of tourists would cancel their booking because there’s no internet. Nowadays, the internet plays a very large role in people’s lives,” said Chen, who lives in Beigan, one of Matsu’s main residential islands.
Apart from disrupting lives, the loss of the internet cables, seemingly innocuous, has huge implications for national security.
As the full-scale invasion of Ukraine has shown, Russia has made taking out internet infrastructure one of the key parts of its strategy. Some experts suspect China may have cut the cables deliberately as part of its harassment of the self-ruled island it considers part of its territory, to be reunited by force if necessary.
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China has long claimed Taiwan as a breakaway territory and pledged to reuniite it with the mainland.
Beijing regularly sends warplanes and navy ships toward Taiwan as part of tactics to intimidate the island’s democratic government. Concerns about China’s invasion, and Taiwan’s preparedness to withstand it, have increased since the war in Ukraine.
The cables had been cut a total of 27 times in the past five years, but it was unclear which country the vessels hailed from, based on data from Chunghwa Telecom.
– Reported with Associated Press
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Last modified: January 3, 2023
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