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Fri, Jun 29, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Hijackers face an uncertain fate

FORCED REPATRIATION Facing lengthy prison terms or even the death sentence upon their return, eight plane hijackers from China have been sent back home

STAFF WRITER , WITH AGENCIES

Taiwan this week repatriated eight Chinese nationals convicted for hijacking Chinese aircraft to Taiwan, the Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said yesterday.

The MAC has kept a low profile concerning the repatriation of the hijackers, partly because most Chinese hijackers resist repatriation. The hijackers will very likely stand trial again after their return to China because Beijing does not recognize Taiwan's judicial authority.

Four of the hijackers -- Qi Daquan (祁大全), Gao Jun (高軍), Han Shuxue (韓書學) and Shi Yuepo (師月坡) -- were repatriated early yesterday from Taiwan's frontline island of Matsu via a Chinese boat, MAC officials said.

Four other hijackers -- Zhang Hai (張海), Zhang Wenlung (張文龍), Yuan Bin (袁斌) and Xu Mei (徐梅) -- were repatriated in the same manner on Wednesday.

The eight hijackers were sent to Matsu earlier this week, under police escort and accompanied by staff members of the quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and Taiwan's Red Cross Society.

The MAC said it authorized the SEF to handle the repatriation earlier this month after the Red Cross Societies on both sides of the Strait reached a consensus on the issue.

Noting that aircraft hijacking is a universal crime, the MAC said all the hijackers have served jail terms and have been released on parole in accordance with Taiwan law.

A total of 13 Chinese commercial aircraft were hijacked by 18 Chinese and flown to Taiwan between 1993 and 1998. Two hijackers -- Huang Shugang (黃樹剛) and Han Fengying (韓鳳英) -- were repatriated in October 1998 after they were released on parole.

In February 1999, three hijackers -- Yang Mingde (楊明德), Lin Wenqiang (林文強) and Wang Zhihua (王志華) -- attacked and injured Jan Jyh-horng (詹志宏), deputy secretary general of the Straits Exchange Foundation, during their pre-repatriation flight to Kinmen and demanded that the plane be flown to Guam.

The attempt failed and the trio were brought back to Taiwan and convicted of hijacking a second time. They are now in the process of appeals.

The incident caused a suspension in the repatriation of hijackers for more than a year.

"Police officers and SEF staff have exercised great prudence in handling the repatriation of the two batches of mainland hijackers in the past two days," a MAC official said.

Gao Jun, one of the hijackers repatriated yesterday, began a hunger strike on Feb. 19 when he was paroled by the Taipei Prison and transferred to the Hsinchu Refugee Camp for Mainland Chinese to await deportation.

In response to the hunger strike, he was shackled to a stretcher by detention center staff and transferred to a hospital in Hsinchu, where he was force-fed by doctors.

"For humanitarian reasons, we force-fed him to prolong his life," said Peng Ching-chin (彭慶瑾), deputy chief of the center, in March.

"He used to resist repatriation, now he says he wants to go back [to China] soon. But I wonder if, when we're to send him back, he might resist again," Lai Hsieh-yi (賴械壹), the center's director said after the hunger strike.

Gao, a garment seller from the northern Chinese city of Qingdao, used a scalpel to hijack a Chinese Northern Airlines MD-82 jet while on a flight from Qingdao to Fuzhou on Dec. 8, 1993.

Taiwan detained Gao but returned the plane -- along with 129 passengers and eight crew members -- to China.

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