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Chinese Pilot Leaves Taiwan Jail

August 30, 1999

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ A Chinese airline pilot who diverted his jet to Taiwan last year has been released after serving 10 months in jail for entering the island illegally, but his future remains uncertain, officials said Monday.

Yuan Bin, 30, was transferred last week to the Hsinchu detention center in northern Taiwan, where illegal Chinese immigrants are held before repatriation back to the mainland.

Yuan had requested not to be returned to China, saying he would prefer to go to a third country to be tried for hijacking or other charges, if necessary, officials said.

Officials at the center declined to say what they will do with Yuan.

After Yuan landed in Taiwan and was arrested last October, the Taiwan High Court did not press any hijacking charges, saying the pilot did not technically hijack the plane because he used no force or threats in diverting the flight.

Yuan’s wife, Xu Mei, who accompanied him, was released from jail in April, also on an illegal entry conviction. She has been held separately at the same detention center ever since.

Yuan diverted the Air China Boeing 737-300 off its scheduled route from Beijing to the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, saying he was frustrated over pay and working conditions at the state-run Chinese carrier.

Taiwan once greeted hijackers from China as heroes, showering them with gifts and offering them asylum, but it has cracked down in recent years.

During a rash of air piracies in 1993 and 1994, Taiwan arrested 16 Chinese hijackers and imprisoned them with sentences of up to 12 years. China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan and refuses to recognize the island’s legal authority, demands hijackers be returned to face prosecution.

Taiwan has since sent seven hijackers to the mainland. Their fate remains unknown.

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