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Sailors who "abducted" fishing boat freed
By Qin Jize (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-26 01:30

Nineteen Chinese sailors suspected of "abducting" a Taiwan fishing boat will be back in Beijing Wednesday, ending almost 48 hours in Malaysian custody.

Sources with the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia said authorities in that country held the mainland sailors after a report from Taiwan officials on Sunday.

"Those Taiwan guys always beat us and we finally kept them in the room for four days", said an embassy staffer surnamed Ning, quoting Chen Yong, one of the sailors.

Fourteen from Southwest China's Sichuan Province and five from Central China's Henan Province were introduced by three labour firms to work on a Taiwanese boat.

They started fishing in the Indian Ocean beginning in April 2003.

Their agreed monthly wage was US$150, among which one-third of the money was to be paid by the captain and the rest by the labour company.

After the chief mate of the ship beat up one of the mainland sailors on January 11, the sailors decided to mutiny.

They locked up the four Taiwanese on the ship ?a including the captain and chief mate.

"It was only four days and we had been negotiating with them since then," Chen told the embassy by telephone, while still in custody of the Malaysian police.

The sailors finally agreed to sail the ship to Singapore to settle the dispute.

"The captain was lying to us," Chen said. "He secretly contacted people back in Taiwan and called the Malaysian police".

When the Malaysian marine police got on the boat, it was still the Taiwan captain who was in charge of everything.

The representative of the Taiwan company and the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur soon investigated the case.

Since the company was not willing to pay the agreed salary to the sailors, the men refused to go back home as arranged.

After negotiations, the company promised to offer each of the sailors US$500 for their 16 months's work and the sailors agreed to fly back home as soon as possible.

Hostages head home

The eight Chinese migrant workers seized by Iraqi militants last Tuesday flew home from Jordan last night, accompanied by officials from the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry, China Central Television reported.

They are expected to arrive in Hong Kong today and then fly back to their hometown in Fuzhou, capital of East China?ˉs Fujian Province.

Arms embargo issue

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan yesterday said it was good to hear that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw affirmed the European Union's intentions to lift the arms embargo on China in a meeting with United States Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice.

Kong also said yesterday China had no knowledge of the existence of a uranium-enrichment programme in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

He said the issue should be clarified within the framework of the six-party talks, which he believes will be reopened soon.

The spokesman also said he is not yet able to confirm the identity of the eight people who climbed over the wall of a Japanese school in Beijing on Monday.

Kong said they were reported to be illegal immigrants to China and the Chinese authorities are investigating this now.

He said the Chinese Government is strongly opposed to illegal immigrants' illegal activities, like the intrusion into foreign embassies and schools.

He said he hoped people involved in the case can closely co-operate with Chinese authorities and turn over the suspects to Chinese police.

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