Russia will allow Chinese fishermen to return home

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 July, 2012, 12:00am


Beijing will post bail for dozens of mainland fishermen arrested in Russian waters a fortnight ago and work with Moscow on ways to prevent similar incidents in future.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said yesterday that the Chinese fishing crews who were detained and charged by Russian authorities for illegal fishing would return home in a few days, as both countries had tried to solve the issue in a 'friendly and co-operative spirit'.

'Diplomatic departments in China and Russia have been reissuing identification and travel documents in recent days to the crewmen,' he said. China and Russia had reached a two-point consensus on fishing disputes, he added, and said negotiations were under way to work out the details.

Russia would allow Chinese fishing boats to enter Russian waters with catch quotas, and China would pay relevant 'economic compensation,' in return he said.

Meanwhile, the two countries will set up a co-operation mechanism on maritime law enforcement to prevent illegal fishing and deter fishermen from entering each other's waters illegally.

On July 16, the Russian Coast Guard fired live rounds at two Chinese fishing boats and arrested 17 crew members. During the incident, a crewman fell overboard and is missing, presumed drowned, in the Sea of Japan. About a week later, two other Chinese fishing boats were detained by Russian authorities in the same region. The Russians confiscated large amounts of fish and other seafood such as squid, and charged the fishermen with illegal fishing.

The incident has provoked strong reactions among mainland internet users, but the state propaganda machine suppressed media reports of the incident, stressing the importance of the Sino-Russian friendship.

Experts said China was soft on Russia for many reasons. Du Jifeng , an expert on Southeast Asian affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that China regarded South China Sea countries such as the Philippines as a minor challenge to its dominance in the region while Russia was a world power and the cost of provoking it would be dear.

Though China and Russia have had many border disputes over the years, some of them deadly, most have been settled through diplomacy, he said, adding that the latest dispute did not involve sensitive issues such as sovereignty claims.

'China also wants to remain friendly with Russia because it still needs Moscow's co-operation on many global issues,' Du said. 'Both sides, in particular China, are trying to play down the fishing dispute and remove it from public attention.'


In US dollars, the target for bilateral trade between China and Russia by 2015