Chinese fishing vessels Lu Huang Yuan Yu 117 and its sister ship Lu Huang Yuan Yu 118 have been seized by Indonesian authorities around Nipah Islands, on Wednesday, after receiving reports of the death of a crew member on board.
The 20-year-old sailor’s body was discovered in a freezer of the Lu Huang Yuan Yu 117 by police, who have claimed that it seems to have been in the freezer since last month. This incident has raised suspicion of frequent instances of human trafficking, torture, and abuse subjected to quite a number of Indonesian nationals working on Chinese ships.
A province police spokesperson has told the AFP that an autopsy is being conducted to determine the cause of death.
Police Chief Inspector General Aris Budiman and a team of the coast guard, police and naval officials initiated a search after receiving reports about the victim’s disappearance from his family on the 29th of June, 2020. After receiving intel on the location of the ships, the joint force was able to catch the targets in a few hours.
15 Chinese nationals, 8 Filipinos, and 10 Indonesians were found working on the seized boat, along with the captain, all of whom are currently detained and placed under investigation. Over 9 people were arrested on Thursday on claims of abuse.
Since November 2019, numerous incidents of what seems to suggest human torture, abuse, and money laundering have been unearthed taking place with Indonesian nationals turning victims of alleged exploitations on Chinese vessels. Forced, illegal labour sourced from Indonesia and Southeast Asia with the promise of good pay at sea is a problem currently faced by the shipping industry.
Public outrage occurred last year when 4 Indonesian seafarers died mysteriously. In May, a Facebook video showed sailors on Lu Qing Yuan Yu 623 dumping the body of an Indonesian sailor into the sea. 30 Indonesian crewmen have also been reportedly exploited which resulted in 7 deaths and missing 3 of the other sea-workers, as per an Indonesian NGO, Destructive Fishing Watch.
The abusive practices have triggered the Indonesian Foreign Ministry to demand China to present facts pertaining to the case. United Nations Human Rights Council has also been petitioned by Jakarta to take steps regarding the same. While the Chinese had stated that they would “deal with the issue based on facts and law” in May earlier this year, there has been no progress.
Following this discovery, Indonesian police are on the hunt to track down agencies suspected of illegal dispatch of seafarers to work on foreign ships.