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Air China flight diverted after man holds attendant hostage

AP Associated Press

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BEIJING — An Air China flight bound for Beijing has been diverted to central China on Sunday following a passenger tried to hold a flight attendant hostage using a fountain pen as a weapon, the country’s civil aviation authority said.

All passengers and crew on Flight 1350 made it safely off the plane after it landed in Zhengzhou city at 10 am due to what had earlier been described by authorities as an unspecified “illegal interference.” The flight had taken off at 8:40 am from the city of Changsha in Hunan province and was scheduled to land in Beijing at 11 am.

The Civil Aviation Authority of China said in a statement on its website that the plane was diverted when a male passenger held a flight attendant hostage.

It said only that “the matter was successfully handled” by 1:17 pm but did not provide any details.

The alleged hostage-taker’s status was unclear.

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In its brief report on the microblog Weibo.com, state broadcaster China Central Television included an image of what appeared to be paramilitary police in combat uniforms and helmets assembled outside a Zhengzhou airport hotel and another image of several ambulances.

The Zhengzhou airport immediately activated emergency measures, its statement said, adding that the passengers who disembarked were in a stable mood and that the airport is operating normally.

The airline said police and aviation authorities were handling the matter and refused to provide further information.

It said it was arranging for another plane to pick up the passengers from Zhengzhou.

The Beijing News said on its Weibo page that a passenger described being awoken by a scream coming from the front of the plane and that “nobody knew what was going on.”

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The Xiaoxiang Morning Herald quoted a passenger as saying that the disturbance occurred in the first or business class cabins but that the curtains separating those sections from economy class were pulled tightly shut.

She looked out the window and saw many police cars, ambulances and fire engines parked outside the plane as it was landing in Zhengzhou, the newspaper said in a Weibo post.

The passenger described seeing armed personnel in camouflage uniforms assembled in two or three rows.

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China conduct live fire drill along southeast coastline

Thompson Reuters

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BEIJING — China’s military has conducted live-fire drills along the southeast coastline, state television reported, but it was unclear if these were the same exercises that had been flagged as taking place in the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

The government had said the drills would happen on Wednesday off the city of Quanzhou, in between two groups of islands close to China’s coast but that Taiwan has controlled since 1949 when defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war.

Chinese state media has said the drills were a direct response to “provocations” by Taiwan leaders related to what China fears are moves to push for the self-ruled island’s formal independence. China claims Taiwan as its sacred territory.

Late on Wednesday, Chinese state television showed footage of helicopters firing missiles during an exercise it said was happening on China’s southeast coast.

State television only showed pictures of helicopters, with no mention of ships or other military equipment such as tanks or amphibious assault vehicles.

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The exercises took place from 8 a.m. (0000GMT) until midnight, the report said, giving the same time frame for the previously announced drills in the Taiwan Strait.

The Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the exercise, and whether it was the same ones previously reported to be happening in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan on Wednesday denounced the exercises, saying Beijing was using “cheap verbal intimidation and saber rattling” to threaten the island.

Taiwan is one of China’s most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint. China has ramped up military exercises around Taiwan in the past year, including flying bombers around the island.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday afternoon two Chinese H-6K bombers had flown around the island, passing first through the Miyako Strait to Taiwan’s northeast and then back to base via the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.

The latest Chinese military movements come during a time of heightened tension between Beijing and the island and follows strong warnings by Chinese President Xi Jinping against Taiwan separatism last month.

China claims Taiwan as its own and considers it a breakaway province.

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