The Jakarta Post
Indonesia has again expressed its concern regarding cases of alleged human rights abuse affecting its citizens onboard Chinese-flagged fishing vessels, calling for a serious investigation.
“Indonesia looks forward to receiving the results of a fair and transparent investigation from the Chinese authorities,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said during a press conference on Thursday.
The minister said that, based on conversations with fishermen from different Chinese vessels, she had been told “exactly the same stories about mistreatment on board”.
Retno said his ministry had summoned Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia Xiao Qian to convey the concerns while maintaining communication between Indonesian and Chinese officials in Beijing.
The allegations of exploitation emerged recently with the report of four Indonesians registered to Chinese fishing ship Long Xing 629 who died between December 2019 and April this year after allegedly enduring poor working conditions.
A video published by South Korea’s Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) last month showed a group of men throwing an orange body bag, believed to contain the body of an Indonesian crew member, off a fishing vessel.
Two unidentified Indonesian sailors told MBC that crew members allegedly were only allowed to take short breaks every six hours, had almost no time to sleep and were made to drink filtered seawater.
Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) cited crewmen of the Long Xing 629 claiming they were sometimes forced to work for up to two days without rest, had been subjected to violence and discrimination and faced hunger and dehydration.
The Chinese foreign ministry said it was investigating the matter but added that some of the allegations were “inconsistent” with information it had gathered, though it did not elaborate, SCMP reports.
The Indonesian crewmen who have returned to Indonesia are reportedly still waiting for thousands of dollars in unpaid wages.
The Indonesian government has reported the case to the United Nations Human Rights Council and officially asked the Council to address human rights violations in the fishing industry.
The National Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim) has named three suspects from manning agencies in Indonesia and alleged a modus operandi of “promising salary and work placement but with unclear working hours”.
Forty-six Indonesian crew members were working for the ship operator, Dalian Ocean Fishing Co., which had landed at Busan, South Korea, aboard the Long Xin 605 and another vessel, Tian Yu 8.
On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry facilitated the return of two more Indonesian crew members to Jakarta, Retno said during Thursday’s conference.
“This means that all 46 [working for] the company have been brought back to Indonesia,” she said.
Retno added that the legal process in Indonesia was moving forward, with the National Police continuing its investigation alongside the Attorney General’s Office.