Authorities from the north-central province of Quang Binh announced on Sunday that seven local fishermen have been held in Chinese custody for three weeks.
Colonel Nguyen Van Phuc, the province’s chief coast guard, told news website Dan Tri that a fishing boat piloted by Captain Nguyen Van Thanh and six crew members from Quang Trach District was hijacked by Chinese police vessels in Vietnamese waters on June 23 and taken to a port on Hainan island.
Phuc said the boat was legally sailing alongside a number of Vietnamese boats, 15 to 20 nautical miles from Hainan, when China sent four military vessels, two coast guard ships and four aircraft to chase after them.
(R-L) Nguyen Thi Nghia, 59, mother of fisherman Nguyen Van Thanh from Quang Binh Province and his wife cry when talking about him being arrested with six other crew members by China. Photo credit: Dan Tri
Thanh's mother, Nguyen Thi Nghia, 59, said a Vietnamese diplomat in China called to inform her family of his detention last Friday.
Nghia said she was told the crew’s health was normal, that they were receiving enough food and water and weren't being abused physically or mentally, but were being prevented from leaving their boat.
Quang Binh’s authorities have visited each of the fishermen’s families to console them and have asked the Foreign Ministry to guarantee their protection.
Vietnamese authorities have already demanded that China explain its illegal arrest of six fishermen on a boat from the central province of Quang Ngai in the Gulf of Tonkin on July 3.
The arrest was the first since China illegally deployed its US$1-billion oil rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 into Vietnamese waters in early May.
Over the years, however, hundreds of Vietnamese fishermen and their crews have fallen prey to China’s increasingly aggressive patrols in the East Sea, internationally known as the South China Sea.
China has sent hundreds of military and coast guard vessels to guard a fleet of armored fishing vessels deployed around the oil rig. Military aircraft have also been deployed around the rig.
The protective armada appears to have been tasked with aggressively pursuing any Vietnamese vessel in the rig's distant vicinity.