China frees 23 fishermen after illegal detention, steals property

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China has released 23 fishermen who were captured over the past two months after confiscating property worth nearly VND500 million (US$26,371), a Vietnamese official said on Friday.

Eleven fishermen from Tieu Viet La's boat and 12 who'd sailed on Mai Phung Luu's boat were freed
on Wednesday on the latter without any positioning device, said Bui Phu Phu, deputy head of Quang Ngai Border Guard force.

La's boat was captured on March 25 around the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago, while Luu's was detained on April 14 also from the same area.

Both boat owners from the central province were asked to pay a ransom of 70,000 Yuan ($10,250) each.

Chinese patrols have been illegally detaining Quang Ngai fishermen when they fish or take shelter from rough seas around the Hoang Sa Archipelago, over which Vietnam has proved its historic sovereignty.

Four cases involving 107 fishermen were reported in Quang Ngai last year. All of them were released, some after two months. In many cases, their boats, equipment and catch were not returned.

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