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Wednesday, October 28, 1998 Published at 09:56 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Chinese pilot 'hijacks own plane'

A Chinese passenger plane has been hijacked and taken to Taiwan by its own pilot.

The aircraft landed safely at Taipei's international airport. The pilot has been taken into custody by Taiwan police.

Correspondent Jill McGivering: First hijacking for four years is politically embarrassing
The pilot told a control tower official he commandeered the plane because he was dissatisfied with life in mainland China, state television reported.

The plane - a Boeing 737 carrying about 100 passengers, including 20 foreign nationals - was on a domestic flight from the Chinese capital, Beijing, to Kunming in the southwest of the country.

[ image: China wants the return of the pilot  - Taiwan will only return the plane]
China wants the return of the pilot - Taiwan will only return the plane
Taiwan's air force dispatched four fighters to escort it to Taipei airport.

Police are now questioning the pilot, Yuan Bin. His wife was also on board.

"Preliminary investigation by prosecutors showed that Yuan flew to Taiwan because he was unhappy with the payment, boarding arrangements and the airline's system there," Taiwan's Interior Minister Huang Chu-wen said.

"No political motives were behind the hijacking," he added.

Taiwan to hand back plane

China has demanded the return of the airliner and its hijacker.

However the Taiwanese authorities have said they will return only the plane, and not the pilot, who will instead stand trial in Taiwan.

Correspondent Jill McGivering: Taiwan has been giving tough sentences to hijackers
There have been numerous hijackings of Chinese aircraft to Taiwan, but none for more than four years after a crackdown on hijackers by the Taiwanese authorities.

Two foiled attempts were reported last year.

In an effort to ease tensions and curb such incidents, Taiwan last year sent back two suspected hijackers to mainland China after they had served jail terms.

Taiwan split from the Chinese mainland government in 1949 after the civil war and the creation of the People's Republic of China under communist leader Mao Zedong.

Beijing regards the island as a breakaway province which must be reunited with the mainland, although - as with Hong Kong - it says it would be allowed to retain its capitalist economy under the formula of "one country, two systems".

Last week, a senior Taiwanese envoy, Koo Chen-Fu, held talks in Beijing with Chinese President Jiang Zemin - the highest level official contact between the two sides for nearly 50 years.

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