Three boats with 43 fishermen were arrested by Chinese authorities off the Hoang Sa (Paracel) islands early this week, the coast guard of Quang Ngai Province said Saturday.
According to the border force’s report to authorities in the central province, the three boats, belonging to Duong Lua, Le Van Loc and Le Tan of Ly Son District, were apprehended on December 7- 8 and escorted to the archipelago’s Phu Lam Island while they were fishing.
After taking them into custody, the Chinese asked the three captains to sign Vietnamese statements saying Vietnamese fishermen had violated China’s seas sovereignty and illegally used explosives, threatening to beat them if they refused to sign, Le Tan said in his report to the provincial authorities.
“Under such circumstances, we couldn’t help but sign them,” Tan said.
The Chinese then confiscated two boats and over 20 tons of fish estimated to cost over VND2 billion (US$109,469) before releasing all the fishermen in the third boat on Thursday, the coast guard headquarters’ report said.
Before the discharge the Chinese loaded sacks of explosives on the three boats, recording with cameras and video recorders, Tan added.
The fishermen returned to Ly Son District safely at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Bui Phu Phu, deputy head of Quang Ngai’s Border Coast Guard Headquarters said they would report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, proposing that they step in and ask the Chinese to release the two boats unconditionally.
“The Chinese must also compensate for the mental and material suffering suffered by the fishermen, as they fished in seas under our sovereignty,” said Truong Ngoc Nhi, deputy chairman of Quang Ngai’s People’s Committee.
This year the Chinese have so far arrested 17 fishing boats with some 210 fishermen from Quang Ngai’s districts of Ly Son and Binh Son while they were fishing and taking shelter during storms off the Hoang Sa Islands, according to the provincial coast guard.
They have released 13 boats and 210 fishermen, but are still keeping four boats along with fishermen’s devices and equipment costing nearly VND8 billion ($437,876), the coast guard said.
Source: Thanh Nien, Tuoi Tre