New islands are being made in the disputed South China Sea by the might of the Chinese state. But a group of marooned Filipinos on a rusting wreck is trying to stand in the way.
The boat pitches up and down and rolls from side to side in the heavy swell. The noise of the big diesel motor, just below the floor, is hammering at my head.
My nose is filled with the smell of dried fish and diesel fumes, my T-shirt glued to my chest with sweat. Proper sleep is impossible.
For more than 40 hours it has been like this. Our wooden fishing boat has tossed its way across the South China Sea. Most of the time we barely exceed walking pace. “Who would be a fisherman?” I wonder out loud.
I stare out at the endless rolling waves. On the horizon the sky is dark and threatening. Then my eye is caught by something sticking up above the waves. It looks like an oil or gas-drilling platform. What on earth is it doing here?
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