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Indonesia seizes Chinese fishing vessels, arrests supervisor after crewman’s death

Indonesia seizes Chinese fishing vessels, arrests supervisor after crewman’s death

FORUM Staff

A joint operation by Indonesian military and law enforcement agencies acting on a tip led to the seizure of two Chinese fishing vessels and the arrest of a crew supervisor after an Indonesian crewman’s death at sea, authorities said.

Police in Indonesia’s Riau province said the 20-year-old victim, Hasan Afriandi, had been assaulted and his body kept in a freezer aboard one of the ships for a week, BenarNews, a Radio Free Asia-affiliated online news service, reported July 15, 2020. Officials said there are indications that the vessels — the Lu Huang Yuan Yu 117 and Lu Huang Yuan Yu 118 — were involved in human trafficking and money laundering and that other crew members had been abused.

The two 71-meter-long fishing boats are registered in Huangdao port in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), according to the North Pacific Fisheries Commission. Each can carry up to 60 crew members and currently is authorized to fish for squid and saury.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, pictured, said police, Navy and Coast Guard personnel apprehended the boats July 8 in the nation’s territorial waters, Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported. The Chinese-flagged vessels were escorted from the Malacca Strait to a military base on Riau’s Batam Island pending an investigation.

Crew supervisor Song Chuanyun, a 50-year-old Chinese national, was detained on charges of assault and human trafficking and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, officials said. “The supervisor assaulted the victim with his feet and hands,” Brig. Gen. Ferdy Sambo, criminal investigations director with the National Police, told BenarNews.

The investigation was sparked by an Indonesian crew member’s call to a 24-hour hotline operated by Destructive Fishing Watch Indonesia, alerting the nongovernmental organization of possible abuse and a death aboard one of the boats, BenarNews reported. It comes in the wake of similar probes into allegations of mistreatment, exploitation and forced labor aboard Chinese fishing vessels operating in Indo-Pacific waters.

Destructive Fishing Watch claims 30 Indonesian crewmen have been victims of exploitation since late 2019, including seven who died and three who were reported missing, The Jakarta Post newspaper reported July 13.

In May 2020, Marsudi summoned the PRC’s ambassador to Jakarta after reports that the bodies of three crew members had been tossed overboard from Chinese fishing boats. The next month, two Indonesian crewmen were rescued near the Riau island of Karimun seven hours after jumping from a Chinese-flagged vessel in the Malacca Strait, BenarNews reported.

In July, Central Java police announced that two executives of a labor recruitment agency had been charged with human trafficking related to the hiring of Indonesian crew members for Chinese fishing vessels, according to the news service.

Asked about the latest incident during a July 10 media briefing, PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian expressed concern over Indonesia’s detention of the two fishing boats “on an international shipping route, without prior notice,” according to the ministry’s website.

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