Chinese fishermen
Chinese fishermen

The Chinese fishermen who were released by North Korean authorities earlier this week after almost two weeks of detention say that their captors beat, robbed and stripped them while feeding them starvation rations.

The Los Angeles Times reported that three Chinese fishing vessels were detained by North Koreans, and their fuel, food and fish were seized.

The North Koreans used the back of their machine guns to hit us and also kicked us, one of the fishermen, Wang Lijie, told the Los Angeles Times.

They stripped us of all our clothes after the beating, including socks and shoes. Most of us had only underwear left.

More alarming, the fishermen described their kidnappers as members of the North Korean military.

They didn't dock our ship at any of the North Korean ports. Our ship was just drifting in the ocean the whole time with North Korean soldiers watching and guarding us all the time, said Wang. The North Korean soldiers also forced us to sign a document in Korean language which is supposed to be confessions of us fishing in North Korean waters. When we at first refused, they started to beat us again.

The North Koreans also demanded a ransom of 400,000 yuan ($63,000) per ship, which Beijing refused to pay.

China Daily reported that the fishermen were returned to the Dalijia fishing harbor in Dalian on May 20. They were given health examinations and found to be in good condition.

The strange incident involving more than two dozen Chinese fishermen has caused a rare breach in the relationship between the two Communist allies.

Chinese media have expressed outrage, and demanded an explanation from Pyongyang. North Korean, which depends heavily on China for its very existence, has further annoyed its Beijing mentors by repeatedly ignoring its calls to cease its nuclear missile tests.

As lives are involved, the severity of the incident cannot be offset by national interests, including Sino-North Korean relations, a Chinese Communist Party paper stated.

Lee Dong-bok, senior associate at Center for Strategic and International Studies in Seoul, told the Times: If North Korean governmental authorities are linked to this incident, we could suspect that the central government's control has weakened in the process of power shifting to Kim Jong Un.