The kidnappers who snatched a Chinese tourist from a Malaysian holiday resort today demanded a ransom of HK$87 million (US$11.2 million).
Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said they received a note from the kidnappers demanding a ransom, which is equivalent to 70 million yuan.
Gao and the Filipino worker were abducted on April 2. Gao was shoved into a boat by gunmen and taken to an unknown location.
Gao Huayun, a 29-year-old from Shanghai, had just spent about a day at the resort when she was taken along with Filipino hotel employee Marcy Dayawan, 40, from the Singamata Reef Resort in Malaysia's Sabah state.
"Gao’s family has appointed someone to negotiate for her safe release,” Zahid, whose ministry handles internal security and law enforcement, said today.
“We hope this case can be settled as soon as possible," he said.
No ransom was demanded for the Filipina resort worker who was also abducted last week, he said.
Malaysia said at the weekend that Gao’s family in China had been contacted by telephone by her kidnappers.
However, a spokesman for the Chinese consulate in Kuching said they have yet to receive police notification about the ransom demand.
Three men armed with M14 automatic rifles grabbed Dayawan from her room and on their way back to the boat seized Gao, who screamed "I don't want to go" in English, according to a police account.
There were at least four other kidnappers waiting in the boat, and they left within minutes, witnesses said. No shots were fired.
The kidnappers are believed to be affiliated with Abu Sayyaf “sub-commander” Murphy Ambang Ladjia in the Philippines.
Gao was travelling with a friend, who left the resort early yesterday, the hotel manager has said. Gao's parents reportedly told Shanghai radio that a day before the raid their daughter had received an admission letter for an MBA degree programme in Britain.
The incident could further complicate relations between China and Malaysia, which have been strained since the March 8 disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines jet with 154 Chinese on board.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the attack might have been aimed at further damaging Sino-Malaysian ties. "Our priority is to ensure the safety of the hostages," he said.
The last Abu Sayyaf abduction in the area was in 2000, when Philippine gunmen crossed the border in speedboats and abducted 21 European tourists along with Malaysian and Filipino workers at the Sipadan diving resort. The kidnappers demanded around US$1 million for each hostage.
The Philippines is co-ordinating with Malaysia on securing the hostages' release.
Additional reporting by Patrick Boehler and Agencies