The People's Republic of China has released the first batch of prisoners who were taken during the fighting for the Paracel Islands in January.
The People's Republic of China has released the first batch of prisoners who were taken during the fighting for the Paracel Islands in January. On Thursday (31 January) six prisoners -- five South Vietnamese and one American--crossed the Lo Wu Bridge from China into the Hong Kong New Territories.
They had been taken prisoner in the two days of fighting between the Chinese and South Vietnamese force on the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on the 19th and 20th of January. China claims to have captured 48 prisoners during the fighting. New that Chinese forces are in control of the archipelago, observers in Peking believe that the early release of prisoners indicates China's desire to close the incident with the minimum of publicity.
The first prisoner to cross the bridge was the American, 27 year-old Gerald Kosh, of Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania. Though he looked ill, and was said to be suffering from hepatitis, he walked unaided for a quarter of a mile from the bridge to a waiting British Air Force helicopter.
Kosh had been working as a regional liaison officer for the United States Defence Attache's Office, when he was captured on one of the islands (Pattle). A South Vietnamese patrol boat had put him on the island just before fighting broke out between Chinese and South Vietnamese gunboats.
For his release, Kosh was wearing the standard Chinese worker's uniform -- a dark blue tunic and dark blue trousers. He wore no hat and had a three day growth of beard.
He was followed almost immediately by the fie Vietnamese, who were also wearing blue tunics. One of them was walking on crutches, another had a noticeable limp, and a third had apparently suffered an eye wound. Each carried a black flannel suitcase containing his belongings.