Beijing: China today said it is verifying a video released by the Pakistani Taliban which showed a kidnapped Chinese tourist appealing to his government to pay the ransom demanded by his captors to secure his freedom.
Hong Xudong, a cyclist, went missing after he crossed over from India to Pakistan and was kidnapped by the TTP in May last year from Daraban area in Dera Ismail Khan which is close to the lawless northwestern tribal region.
The Chinese embassy in Islamabad is in close contact with Pakistan to verify the information, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a media briefing here.
“We will check on whether the video footage is true or not and will properly deal with the relevant issue,” she said referring to the payment of ransom to his kidnappers.
In the video released on Sunday, Hong asked the Chinese government to meet the ransom demand but did not mention a specific amount. He also said that the Taliban splinter group Jaish al-Hadeed have told him that he would be killed if the money is not paid.
“Any cyclist should know that northwestern Pakistan is a no-pass zone, but an increasing number of people are lured to ‘prove themselves’ by some chicken soup travel books,” Li Rui, a well-known Chinese cyclist said.
Online posts by Hong’s friends after he lost contact, said that he entered Pakistan from India in April, 2014 and was planning to head for Iran, which looked “random and carelessly planned,” the Global Times reported quoting Li.
Acquaintances of Hong told the daily that they are also waiting for the official confirmation on the identity of the man in the video. Pakistani police said that they found his passport, bicycle and belongings.
Wang Guoxiang, an associate professor at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, said that this is not the first time the Taliban has targeted Chinese nationals and in Afghanistan alone, at least 20 Chinese were killed in 2014.
Two Chinese engineers were kidnapped by Taliban militants in Pakistan in 2008. One escaped, but the other one was freed after nearly 167 days as a hostage.
Three Chinese nationals were kidnapped and killed in Afghanistan in August, 2013. “The released video feels like a provocative gesture as it gives China a dilemma. A direct ransom payment would not only look like a compromise to international terrorism, but may also encourage terrorists at home,” Wang said.