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Helicopter drama over debt issue

By AN BAIJIE  (China Daily)

08:46, May 16, 2013

Police investigate on Wednesday an incident that some netizens claimed was "the country's first case of a hijacked helicopter", in Dezhou, East China's Shandong province. Provided to China Daily

A much-discussed incident involving a helicopter was a so-called hijacking, the Shandong provincial government said on Wednesday.

The helicopter, owned by a company in Hubei province, was in Xiajin county when 14 men from Pingyuan's Wanli General Aviation Co took control of it, according to a statement from the Shandong government's publicity department.

Zhang Hongwei, the company's former general manager, was among the men. He claimed that the helicopter's owner - Jia Fuxiang, general manager of Hubei Yinyan General Aviation - owed him about 2 million yuan ($325, 350).

He ordered the helicopter's pilot, Li Jun, to fly to his private airport in Pingyuan county to negotiate the debt, the statement said. The helicopter was initially hired by the Xiajin government's forestry authority to spray pesticide at a local park.

Jia from Hubei Yinyan General Aviation then called the police and claimed that the helicopter was hijacked, according to the publicity department.

Further investigation revealed that Li, the pilot, used to work for the Wanli General Aviation Co Hubei Yinyan General Aviation, his current employer, had not paid a transfer fee to Wanli, the government said.

The incident was a hot topic online, with a Sina Weibo post labeling the incident China's first case of a hijacked helicopter.

The widely circulated post claimed 20 men hijacked the helicopter and attacked its pilot.

Chen Jinguang, director from the publicity department of Xiajin county's public security bureau, said on Wednesday that there were no physical attacks during the incident.

The helicopter finally landed at Fangzi Airport in Pingyuan, and the pilot was not injured, he said.

Police have detained Zhang and the other suspects, Chen said.

An employee from Hubei Yinyan General Aviation declined to comment on the issue when contacted by China Daily on Wednesday.

Wanli General Aviation Co did not answer calls on the same day.

Xu Aiqing, an official in Xiajin county's publicity department, said that the pilot traveled from Xiajin to Hubei province after meeting with the police.

Police investigations are ongoing, and Xu said it is unclear whether the suspects will face criminal charges.

Chen Tao, a lawyer and member of the Beijing Lawyers' Association, said that even though the pilot was not attacked, the suspects might face a sentence.

"Regardless of the reason, it's illegal to force the pilot to fly," he said.

Zhao Ruixue in Jinan contributed to this story.

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