Chinese Ship Halted After Reportedly Robbing Grave Sites

( — Malaysian authorities say they found what appeared to be a British shell from the Second World War on a Chinese ship. Police are investigating if the vessel illegally looted two British warships that were sunk in the South China Sea during the global conflict. The UK vessels are designated war graves.

HMS Repulse and the HMS Prince of Wales were sunk by Japanese torpedoes in 1941. More than 800 troops died in the attacks. Local fishermen alerted authorities when they spotted a vessel near the area recently. The Chinese ship was detained with 32 crew members on board.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy posted a tweet saying, “We are distressed and concerned at the apparent vandalism for personal profit of the designated war graves of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse and the loss of naval heritage.”

The British Ministry of Defense called the incident a “desecration.” It is not however the first time the vessels have been looted.

In 2018, British media reported that ten sunken UK ships had been plundered by Chinese pirates seeking scrap metal. The vessels are located off the coast of Malaysia and Indonesia and are the final resting place for more than 1,000 UK troops. The looting of such ships is illegal in both countries. The Chinese-owned Fujian Jiada was linked to the incident but denied involvement.

A media investigation revealed that looters are seeking materials that were common at the time of the war but are rare and valuable now. The plundered metal is removed from the sea and taken to scrapyards in Indonesia, where it is cut into smaller pieces and shipped to China. From there, it enters the metal market.

Experts believe around half of the structures on the sunken ships may have already been plundered. A study in 2019 found that thousands of boats and planes from the war lie at the bottom of oceans and seas worldwide, and looting is common. Most stolen metal is sold in India, China, and Bangladesh.

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