Freed Chinese captives describe beatings, eating rats in Somalia

By Global Times - Agencies Source:Global Times-Agencies Published: 2016/11/1 19:38:39

Shen Jui-chang (center), one of the hostages and chief engineer on the Naham 3, returns Taiwan on Wednesday and expresses his gratitude about coming back home. Photo: IC

Shen Jui-chang (center), one of the hostages and chief engineer on the Naham 3, returns Taiwan on Wednesday and expresses his gratitude about coming back home. Photo: IC

The Sichuan sailor Leng Wenbing had long ago given up hope of ever seeing his father again by the time he dad been held captive by Somali pirates for 1,671 days.

On March 27, 2012, Leng, along with another 28 crew members of the Taiwan-owned Omani-flagged fishing vessel Naham 3, were taken captive by Somali pirates south of the Seychelles, including 10 from the Chinese mainland, two from Taiwan, and 17 others from the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Three of the 29 hostages died during and after the hijacking, including one from the mainland and one from Taiwan.

Having been tricked by pirates more than 30 times, when Leng was told that he was going home, he did not believe it at first. "It wasn't until I saw the planes that I finally believed that I was going home, really!" Leng told Beijing-based newspaper The Mirror.

On October 25, Leng went back to his hometown in Zhongjiang county, Southwest China's Sichuan Province. After 10 years away, the 27-year-old made a long-overdue homecoming.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Sunday the 26 crew members were rescued "through various efforts." The Chinese government was grateful to "all the organizations and people who had participated in the rescue."

Pirate representative Bile Hussein told the Associated Press that $1.5 million was paid for the sailors' release. That claim could not be independently verified as of press time.

Desperate babysitters

"Pirates treated us like babysitters, forcing us to wash clothes, cook dinners and clean their guns," Leng told the China Youth Daily. 

He first thought that he would be freed after one year at most. However, his hope gradually faded after spending 17 months in captivity on the Naham 3 and then being transferred to more than 40 places inland.

Filled with horror and hatred, Leng once tried to escape from his captors. However, after swimming for one hour to the other side of a nearby river and walking for a dozen hours, he was recaptured by the pirates and severely beaten, leaving him with a long scar on his forehead.

The Naham 3's fuel oil was exhausted after 17 months and they were then confined into a 10-square-meter room in the forest. The crew were only given a bowl of water and two main dishes every day.

Leng told The Mirror newspaper that during most difficult days, he was forced to eat rats, birds, snakes and cats. Some meat that he ate "was neither cat nor fox. But it stunk and made me feel nauseous."

The pirates would regularly beat the hostages with bamboos and then comforted them that "it was ok, they would not kill us."

Missing home

"When I was in Somalia, I always dreamed of coming home. However, when I woke up, I was still in that place," said Leng. "I could not stop missing home or get rid of my nightmares."

The captive crew had to talk discreetly and to support each other in their desperation.

Shen Jui-chang, one of the hostages from Taiwan and chief engineer on the Naham 3, told The Beijing News that he was forced at gunpoint to film a video asking the Taiwan authorities for a ransom in 2014 when negotiations broke down.

Shen added that the Taiwan ship-owner previously agreed to pay $1.1 million. However, the pirates rejected the offer and the ship-owner was only willing to pay $500,000 one and a half years later. 

Shen, in his 60s, said that he was granted a chance to escape from the vessel, but he gave up as he was not willing to abandon the others.

Former Taiwan legislator Tsai Cheng-yuan got involved while serving in the legislature when Shen's wife and daughter sought his help, reports said.

Tsai told the Associated Press that he first talked to government agencies in Taiwan but was refused help, as the local government rejected negotiating with the pirates for fear of encouraging future abductions.

So Tsai contacted the governments of Shen's fellow hostages' home country's. A foreign affairs police official from the Philippines and a deputy general secretary of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits also joined the rescue.

Tsai also asked Taiwan companies for donations to help pay the ransom. Some were reluctant because they feared pirates would reject the final offer, so Tsai promised to return their money if Shen wasn't released. Tsai declined to say how much money was ultimately paid to the pirates.

Newspaper headline: Pirate prisoners


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