This page was created by Weiting Guo.  The last update was by Kate McDonald.

Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

"Even the Robbers Could Release the Hostages Who Were from the Same Home District"

The previous pages showcase the incidents of robbery and piracy around the Wenzhou water. Many pirates were based in Taizhou or the surrounding regions. They robbed, killed, and looted ordinary people along the coast. They stole boats and weapons, and kidnapped passengers and sailors. In the case of kidnapping, they usually requested ransom or even forced the owners of the boats to reach agreements. As the 1923 Shen Bao report suggests, the water police lacked sufficient boats and soldiers, and hence were unable to investigate these cases. Similarly, the navy cruisers also lacked sufficient quantities of coals for conducting coastal patrol. As a result, piracy continued to be rampant, and the vast water space provided the pirates a good platform for extracting resources and extending networks.

Several Taizhou pirates had their own bases in Wenzhou. According to the 1930 Shen Bao report, some Taizhou pirates boarded the boat in Wenzhou, while aiming their major target passenger on the steamer. In October 1916, nine boats loaded with timber logs sailed from Fuzhou, Fujian Province, to Shanghai. Aware that the water police force usually was not able to combat pirate boats, these boats sailed together in an attempt to help each other. Yet, when they passed by Wenzhou's Dayuguan water, they were surrounded by hoards of pirate ships and robbed. After looting, the pirates were still not satisfied and they kidnapped one sailor from each merchant ship, asking each to pay 1,000 or 1,400 dollars of ransom. The victims soon informed the Wenzhou Native-Place Association in Shanghai requesting the latter to notify the Zhejiang provincial authorities. Yet, despite the provincial military commander and the Wenzhou-Taizhou regional water police deputing their troops to combat the pirates, they could not arrest any robbers and were able to recover only two hostages. After the government's failed attempts, the pirate head, Mr. Xiang, reached out to the victim boats and negotiated the price of ransom. The ransom was now dropped to 400 dollars each, and the boats signed a contract with the pirates. While the negotiations and the ransoms resolved the problems the problem of kidnapping, most of the sailors in the merchant boats were injured during the fighting. The only exception was a boat from Taizhou, which is also the hometown of the pirates. The pirates did not injure most of the sailors from this boat, who they deemed as their fellow Taizhounese. They also released the Taizhou hostages as they were from the pirates' home district.

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