China seizes two ships in Hong Kong

BY MICHAEL SHERIDAN

in London and

TERESA POOLE in Peking

The Chinese ambassador in London was summoned to the Foreign Office yesterday for a formal protest over the capture and detention of two Hong Kong vessels and their crewmen, who were seized at gunpoint in the colony's territorial waters.

The incident has caused a political uproar in Hong Kong, and could further damage Britain's relations with China, already strained over plans for the transition to Chinese rule in 1997. The Hong Kong government said it was "very concerned" over the incident, while an internal police report, leaked to the South China Morning Post, said "this blatant incursion has heightened the fear that we have already lost control".

The summoning of China's ambassador, Ma Yuzhen, was seen in London as a last resort after representations to the local Chinese authorities failed to produce results. The Foreign Office Minister of State Alistair Goodlad told the ambassador of Britain's "concern over this very serious incident" and urged China "to take quick and responsible action to resolve the issue".

The British ambassador in Peking is to make a parallel protest at the foreign ministry this morning, and Chris Patten, the Governor of Hong Kong, has ordered the Royal Navy to review its rules of engagement in the waters around the colony. However, the Hong Kong squadron is a shadow of its former self: it has three patrol craft, and about two dozen Marines with "Rigid Raiders", small fast assault craft.

Mr Patten has also instructed the Hong Kong police to take a robust approach to any future infringements of territorial waters by Chinese boats.

On 18 March two vessels were confronted by armed mainland Chinese security forces eight miles inside the colony's territorial waters. Shots were fired across the bows of the vessels before they were seized.

A distress message was picked up at about 9am by Hong Kong's Marine Police. When they arrived they found six uniformed Chinese security officers, two armed with machine-guns and some wearing hoods, with the Hong Kong vessels.

The South China Morning Post reported that when the policemen attempted to intervene, they were held back at gunpoint. The Hong Kong Security Branch ordered the officers not to provoke a confrontation. The police launches then had to escort the Chinese and their captives south into Chinese waters. The Royal Navy was not called in.

A police official in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai said two Hong Kong men would be put on trial for attempting to smuggle 47 cars into the country and that an anti-contraband operation had drifted into Hong Kong waters in high winds.

The smuggling of stolen and new cars from Hong Kong to China has been a serious problem for several years.

Allegations of involvement by mainland officials, including customs and police, have complicated diplomatically sensitive incidents when Chinese anti-smuggling pursuit vessels have strayed into Hong Kong's waters.

Emily Lau, an Independent Legislative Council member, said: "It seems that the Chinese are just walking all over Hong Kong and Britain."

A top-level police delegation was due to travel to China yesterday to try to secure the crew's release.

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices