Vietnam demands unconditional release of fishermen held by China

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Chinese authorities who illegally seized nine Vietnamese fishermen from Vietnamese waters last month are demanding a ransom for their return despite Vietnam's demands for their unconditional release, the Vietnamese foreign ministry said.

According to a statement posted Wednesday (October) 6 on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, the men were detained on September 11 while they were fishing off the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago.

The ministry has demanded several times that China release the fishermen and theirs boat unconditionally. The demands were made through diplomatic channels at different levels in Hanoi and Beijing, the statement said.

On September 21, the MoFA Consular Agency sent a diplomatic note to the Chinese Embassy in Vietnam, demanding the release of the fishermen and their boat.

The agency stressed that the detention of the Vietnamese fishermen while they were fishing in Vietnamese waters seriously violated Vietnam's sovereignty and jurisdiction.

In response, the Chinese Embassy in Vietnam on Tuesday said the fishermen had explosives with them meant for catching fish, and that concerned agencies had fined the captain and informed his family in Vietnam.

The MoFA reiterated its rejection of China's "unreasonable" decision and reaffirmed that the boat was fishing off Vietnamese waters.

The ministry also said that there were no explosives onboard. The explosives had not been mentioned in a note that had been sent to the Vietnamese Embassy in China on September 15 to announce the detention of the fishermen, the ministry stated.
However, China has refused to release the fishermen and their boat unconditionally.

The boat belongs to Mai Phung Luu of Quang Ngai Province's Ly Son District, who is also the captain.

Colonel Bui Phu Phu, vice head of Quang Ngai Province's border security force, told the Tuoi Tre newspaper that China had demanded a ransom of 70,000 yuan (US$10,461) for the release.

A fisheries official at Ly Son District's An Hai Commune, Bui Truong Xuan, said that this was the third time Captain Luu had being detained by Chinese patrols.

The first time was in January 2009 when he lost his boat and equipment - valued at around VND700 million ($35,925).

The second time occurred in April of this year when he lost all equipment valued at VND100 million. His boat and 10 fishermen were later released.

Truong Ngoc Nhi, vice chairman of the Quang Ngai People's Committee, said that a total of 63 Vietnamese fishing boats and 725 fishermen had been detained by China since 2005.

Most of them have faced many difficulties after being released because their ships and equipment had been confiscated, he said.

Meanwhile, the Quang Ngai Fisheries Association has reported that many Chinese fishing boats have encroached on Vietnamese waters.

The central Fisheries Association has suggested the government, the MoFA and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development take due action against such transgressions.

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