Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has confirmed four Indonesian crew members died on Chinese-flagged boats between May and June. The foreign office has said the number of fatalities has increased to 12 since November 2019.
According to Indonesian officials the bodies of the four sailors were tossed into the sea.
Activists claim some of the sailors, who often carry no documentation, were made to work in appalling conditions aboard the vessels.
Ms Marsudi has raised “profound concerns” over the incidents and demanded an investigation following talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
She said: “I conveyed the Indonesian Government’s profound concerns about the various incidents that befell Indonesian crews on board of Chinese fishing boats.
“Specifically, we urged the Chinese government to conduct a thorough investigation, followed by legal action, in connection with the deaths, the disposal of the bodies and improper working conditions.”
Judha Nugraha, the foreign ministry’s director for the protection of Indonesians overseas, said it had received new information on four sailors who died on two Chinese fishing boats in May and June.
Mr Nugraha said the bodies had been buried in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean earlier this month.
The foreign policy chief said Indonesian representatives in Singapore, Beijing and Guangzhou had requested the bodies be returned to their homeland.
He argued burial at sea should only be carried out when there is no other option.
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Santo Darmosumarto, director for the East Asia desk at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said China’s top diplomat agreed to take the matter seriously.
He added although an inquiry is ongoing it is not being treated as a criminal case.