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International relations

Indonesia seizes Chinese fishing ship carrying dead sailor

Jakarta detains vessels for first time since string of deaths of its nationals

Several Indonesian nationals aboard Chinese fishing vessels have been subject to abuse, including long working hours and physical violence.   © Kyodo

JAKARTA -- Indonesian authorities found a 20-year-old sailor dead aboard a seized Chinese fishing ship, a police source said Thursday.

The seizure of two vessels was the first by Indonesia since a spate of deaths of its nationals aboard Chinese fishing ships. Authorities detained the ships Wednesday after families of sailors reported hearing stories of violence and abuse.

Police discovered the body of the Indonesian man in a freezer of the Lu Huang Yuan Yu 117. The sailor was reportedly subject to torture by the ship's captain and others before dying last month, according to sailors.

Police believe he was kept in the freezer since late last month.

The captain and other crew members have been placed under investigation.

A team formed by police, naval and coast guard officials seized the Chinese vessels off Indonesia's Batam Island. At least 22 Indonesians worked aboard the ships, catching squid and other seafood near Argentina.

Several Indonesian nationals aboard Chinese fishing vessels have been subject to abuse, including long working hours and physical violence. Reports surfaced in May that at least three bodies of Indonesian sailors had been dumped from Chinese boats into the Pacific Ocean in recent months.

Indonesia's foreign ministry has demanded China disclose the facts of the cases. Jakarta has also petitioned the United Nations Human Rights Council to be aware of the abusive practices in the fishing industry.

Seven Indonesian sailors have died on Chinese fishing ships between November last year and this month, according to the Destructive Fishing Watch, an Indonesian nongovernmental organization. Another two crew members have gone missing, says the organization.

China "will properly deal with the issue based on facts and law," Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in May. But the investigation by Chinese authorities has failed to move forward. Indonesia seeks to uncover the facts pertaining to the abuse aboard the ships.

Meanwhile, Indonesian national police continue to crack down on domestic staffing agencies suspected of illegally dispatching Indonesians to work on foreign fishing ships. The crew member whose body was discovered Wednesday was registered with an agency whose executives were already arrested.

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