China says 19 nationals freed from Myanmar kidnap

Chinese police said all 19 nationals reported kidnapped to Myanmar from a north Chinese city have been freed after families paid ransoms to captors.

China says 19 nationals freed from Myanmar kidnap

Chinese police said all 19 nationals reported kidnapped to Myanmar from a north Chinese city have been freed after families paid ransoms to captors who forced the mostly teenage victims to gamble themselves into deep debt.

Xinhua news agency reported on Friday that Qiao Yabiao, the last of the victims know to have come from Yuncheng, a small coal city in north Shanxi province, returned to China on Friday.

He and the others were lured to southwest China's Yunnan province in search of work, Xinhua said in an earlier story that said 18 of the Yuncheng victims had been freed. They were taken to neighbouring Myanmar and forced to gamble, it said.

China's long border with Myanmar is porous, with many casinos on the Myanmar side that cater to visiting Chinese.

"The kidnappers forced them to call home asking for ransom money," Xinhua said, citing Yuncheng police.

One of the captives, 16-year-old Wang Jian, told police they "were all starving, thirsty and frequently beaten". And Wang "was even forced to eat excrement and threatened with being thrown into a cage with a bear".

In most of the cases, families or police paid ransoms from 20,000 yuan ($3,000) to 100,000 yuan, the report said.

Zhou Xin, a police officer in Yuncheng, said there had been a spate of abductions of young people there since August last year, but he said there were unlikely to be many more than the 19 already reported.

China is one of the few nations that stands by the military junta running Myanmar, also called by its former name, Burma. But Chinese officials have also been worried by the gambling, drug-running and crime that spills over from hilly and isolated northern Myanmar.

The report did not explain why locals of Yuncheng were targeted by kidnappers. But the Shanxi province's abundant coal has brought wealth to families there.

Police arrested two men from Shanxi on suspicion of involvement in the case, Xinhua reported. Other suspects are being pursued.

"Most of the suspects were friends or schoolmates of the victims," Xinhua said.

Reuters
Last Mod: 23 Ocak 2009, 09:53
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