Owners of three Chinese fishing boats, which were allegedly seized by an unidentified North Korean ship last week, told the Global Times Wednesday that they cannot meet the captors' ransom demand and hope local authorities can help resolve the issue.
"A total of 29 crewmen are in their custody. My boat's captain called me through the captors' phone Tuesday, saying they would be disposed of if no ransom was paid by today," Zhang Dechang, one of the boat owners, told the Global Times Wednesday.
"All the boats were from Liaoning Province. They were captured by a North Korean boat on May 8, when they were trawling in Chinese waters at 38.05 degrees north latitude and 123.57 degrees east longitude," Zhang said, citing his captain.
According to him, Chinese people were among the captors.
"They were wielding guns, so the fishermen didn't dare resist. My captain told me that the fishermen were crammed into a tiny cabin with food supplies cut off. The captors are demanding 300,000 yuan in ransom ($47,457.90) for each boat, but we do not have that much money. We hope related departments can help us free the crew," Zhang said.
Sun Caihui, another boat owner, told the Global Times that communication with his boat and the 10 fishermen on board had been cut off since May 8.
Sun said that they immediately turned to local authorities, including marine police and fishery departments, for help after the incident, but have yet to receive any response.
A staff officer surnamed Yu with a Dalian marine police squad told the Global Times that the provincial authority had stepped in after being informed.
She said the captors had earlier agreed to release the crewmen but failed to show up at an appointed location on Saturday, and that she was not clear if the captors are with North Korean authorities or just a group of kidnappers.
China's foreign ministry told the Legal Mirror Wednesday that relevant departments are verifying the incident, which is supposed to be a fishery case, and will try to properly resolve the issue as early as possible and guarantee the Chinese nationals' safety and rights.