China is demanding US$233,00 ransom for the release of 21 Vietnamese fishermen who were caught and detained by Chinese vessels in Vietnamese waters in the East Sea.
The Vietnam News Agency on Wednesday said Chinese reports cited Liu Tian Rong, deputy director of the Nanhai Sea Fishery Bureau, admitting that China is holding 21 Vietnamese fishermen and their two boats captive and demanding money as a punitive measure.
The demand does anything but respond to Vietnam's request that China release the fishermen unconditionally as they were working in Vietnam's sovereign sea waters.
The fishermen have been detained on the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands for nearly one month now.
Luong Thanh Nghi, the spokesperson of Vietnam's Foreign Ministry, said on March 21 that China should stop arresting Vietnamese fishermen or causing them trouble when they are working in Vietnamese waters.
"The Paracel Islands are under Vietnamese sovereignty," Nghi said, as was cited in a Vietnam News Agency report Wednesday.
He said representatives from the ministry have met with officials from the Chinese embassy in Hanoi to clearly explain Vietnam's perspective on the matter.
The ministry is continuing with its efforts to protect the fishermen, Nghi said.
The arrest is the latest of many similar cases in which Vietnamese fishermen were accosted by Chinese vessels. Vietnam's ministry has repeatedly requested the unconditional release of such fishermen.
Le Thi Phuc, the wife of an arrested ship captain, Tran Hien, said she was not allowed talk to Hien when she called on Wednesday night.
Some person from the Chinese forces only alleged to her that the fishermen were in good health.
Phuc said the person told her that if she and other fishermen's families could not afford the ransom of $11,000 each, they could pay "a little," without specifying the amount.
"Even if it is a little, my family is still unable to pay," said the wife who became a mother ten days ago.
Phuc said her husband had borrowed money to build the boat worth more than VND400 million ($20,000) on which his fishing career depends.
The fishermen's families have been supported with more than VND100 million ($50,000) from private donors from Ho Chi Minh City.
Phan Huy Hoang, deputy director of the Agriculture and Rural Development Department of Quang Ngai, where the fishermen are from, said the authorities are encouraging locals to sail out to sea as usual.
"Many local boats are still fishing in the Hoang Sa waters," Tuoi Tre cited Hoang as saying Thursday.
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