Chinese man to serve 26-year term for pirate killings

The Kaohsiung District Court in Taiwan has sentenced a Chinese man to 26 years in prison for ordering the killing of four alleged pirates in 2012, when he was serving as the captain of a Taiwanese fishing vessel.

Wang Fengyu, 43, was convicted of homicide and for breaching the Controlling Guns, Knives and Ammunition Act.

The incident happened on board the Kaohsiung-registered longliner Ping Shin No 101 in the Indian Ocean off the Somalian coast on September 29th 2012. Wang ordered two Pakistanis he had hired as acting captains to fire at and kill four Somalian men he suspected of being pirates, the court said. The incident was witnessed by crew members on several nearby vessels, one of which was the Chun I No 217, also registered in Taiwan, it said. The group of vessels was allegedly fired at while operating 595km southeast of Mogadishu. Wang ordered his crew to fire back at a boat carrying the four alleged pirates, the court said, adding that one of the vessels, which is not named in the court filing, also rammed the boat, causing it to overturn and sink. Wang then ordered his crew to fire at the four men, who were defenceless swimming in the water, the court said.

The incident did not become known until August 2014, when a 10-minute video of the killing was posted online by an anonymous person who allegedly found the footage on smartphone they found in a taxi in Fiji.

In the video, a man believed to be Wang can be heard ordering his crew to fire at the men in the water, after which about 40 rounds were fired. The man ordering the shooting or the shooters were not shown in the footage, the court added.

Wang, who is from China’s Zhejiang Province, was hired in 2011 by a Kaohsiung-based company to serve as acting captain of the Ping Shin No. 101. Court documents did not name the Taiwanese company or its owner.

Prosecutors said that they issued a detention warrant for Wang on December 28th 2018 after he repeatedly did not report for questioning in connection with the case. It was unclear why prosecutors waited until 2018 to act. In 2016, Greenpeace referred to the case in a report on human and labour rights abuses in Taiwan’s fishing industry. Wang was detained on August 22nd 2020 after the ship he was serving on at the time made a call at the Port of Kaohsiung. Although Wang is a Chinese national and the incident occurred in international waters, he was prosecuted in Taiwan because the shooting occurred on a Taiwanese vessel.

The ruling can be appealed.