BEIJING/FUZHOU, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- A plane chartered by the Chinese government flew 14 Chinese fishermen illegally seized by Japanese authorities from Japan to the southeast China port city of Fuzhou Monday afternoon, after China's repeated solemn representations.
The fishermen were detained after the trawler they were aboard collided with two Japanese Coast Guard patrol vessels near the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea last Tuesday. No injuries were reported from the collision.
Dressed in t-shirts and casual pants, the fishermen disembarked the plane and hugged their family members who had gathered at Changle International Airport in the coastal province of Fujian.
"Our safe return is due to the work of Chinese society, including the Party, the government and compatriots from all walks of life," said Wang Guohua, one of the crew members.
He said the Diaoyu Islands are Chinese territory and their detention by the Japanese authorities was illegal.
"For generations, we have fished in those waters and so how could they seize us?" he said.
The trawler, which was "illegally detained by the Japanese side," also set off for home Monday morning, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that the Chinese government has dispatched a fisheries administration ship to the relevant waters to assist it.
China has repeatedly lodged solemn representations to the Japanese side about the incident, and all Chinese people, including overseas Chinese compatriots, have denounced the illegal moves of the Japanese side, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.
"All this fully illustrates the firm will and determination of the Chinese government and the Chinese people to safeguard the territory and sovereignty of our homeland," Jiang said.
Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture and the local government of Fujian Province were also aboard the chartered flight to take care of the fishermen, she said.
The captain of the Chinese trawler, Zhan Qixiong, 41, is still being held by Japanese authorities for allegedly "obstructing public duties." A Japanese court has ruled he be detained for 10 days, until Sept. 19.
"The captain is still being illegally detained by the Japanese side and China strongly demands the Japanese side immediately let him return," Jiang said.
The trawler and its crew members were kept off Ishigaki harbor in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture from last Tuesday and China four times demanded their return.
State Councillor Dai Bingguo, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and some other senior Chinese diplomats have summoned the Japanese Ambassador to China, Uichiro Niwa, four times since the incident.
During his meeting with Uichiro Niwa in the early hours of Sunday, Dai said Japan must make a "wise political decision" and free the trawler and crew.
Also on Sunday, China voiced its firm opposition to any kind of investigation by the Japanese side of the incident, when the Japanese towed the trawler to the sea near Ishigaki island to reenact the vessels' collision.
In a written statement, spokeswoman Jiang said Japan's so-called evidence-taking activities were illegal, invalid and conducted in vain.