Aussie tourists taken hostage on tourist bus in China


There is no indication a Chinese man who took 10 Australians hostage overnight chose to specifically target Australians, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says.

A man armed with explosives took the Australian tourists hostage in the Chinese city of Xi’an, keeping one NSW woman captive for several hours before he was shot and killed by police.

“There is no indication this was particularly aimed at Australia or Australians,” Mr Smith told the Nine Network this morning.

“Our consular officials are seeking to obtain a full briefing from the Chinese authorities and the Chinese police.

“We don’t yet have any advice on what the motive may have been.”

None of the hostages, reported to be travel agents, had suffered major injuries and all would return to Australia today, Mr Smith said.

“I’m very pleased to be advised early this morning that everyone is OK,” he said.

“They’ve received all of the consular support that we can provide including some, as I understand it, some minor medical assistance but yes, I’m very pleased to advise that all are well.”

The group was “planning, as I understand it, to travel from Shanghai back to Australia during the course of the day,” Mr Smith said.

The Australians and a translator were on a bus at the Bell and Drum Tower square, in the popular north-west city of Xi’an, when the Chinese national hijacked it just before 10am (1pm Melbourne time) yesterday.

Nine of the Australians were released soon after but the 48-year-old NSW woman and the translator were kept captive for some time longer, Janaline Oh, a spokeswoman for the Australian Embassy in Beijing, said last night.

Mr Smith said the tourist had suffered some injuries.

“I understand there were some minor physical issues, very minor, but it was more shock and the horror of being involved in such a terrible situation.”

Police tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with the hijacker, named by local media as Xia Tao from Xi’an’s Yanliang District, before agreeing to let him change buses and drive to the airport.

A sniper shot him as he approached a toll station at 12.36pm local time (3.36pm Melbourne time), China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported, citing the local public security bureau.

The tourists were being flown to the Chinese financial capital of Shanghai last night, where they were to be met by Australian diplomatic officials.

The terrifying ordeal for the Australians comes just weeks before Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is scheduled to visit Beijing, as part of a wide-ranging overseas visit which will also take in Europe and the United States.

The Prime Minister will meet the Chinese President for the first time since Mr Rudd impressed guests at the APEC summit in Sydney with his command of Mandarin.

Xi’an is a tourist magnet for visitors wanting to visit China’s famous museum of terracotta warriors and horses.