Innocent witnesses needn't be restrained
It happens all the time. Americans traveling abroad are detained by authorities for any number of legitimate reasons. They might, for instance, innocently find themselves witnesses to a crime.
How those Americans are treated in a given country depends in large measure on how that country's citizens are treated when they are detained here.
From that perspective, American travelers had better be extremely careful in China, because we are treating detained Chinese here in Honolulu in an outrageous manner.
Something terrible happened March 14 aboard the Full Means No. 2, a fishing boat in international waters southeast of Hilo. The captain and first mate were stabbed to death, and a 21-year-old cook was accused of the crime.
The remaining 30 crew members disarmed the cook and held him until the Coast Guard showed up to escort the boat into Honolulu. Now the crew members are being held legitimately as material witnesses in this homicide case but they are being treated like criminals as they are taken to detention hearings in handcuffs and leg restraints.
Contrast that situation, if you will, with China's 11-day detention of the 24-member crew of a Navy EP-3 surveillance aircraft that landed on Hainan island after it collided with a Chinese F-8 fighter.
When American diplomats were allowed to visit the crew, they were comfortably ensconced in a barracks and well treated. Indeed, China is still trying to bill Washington for $1 million in costs for their unexpected visit.
At the time, China charged that the EP-3 pilot had deliberately caused the collision, which resulted in the death of a Chinese pilot, and that the EP-3 was intruding on its airspace. The American version of the story, of course, was radically different. The point is, however, that our diplomats didn't find the Navy crew members handcuffed or shackled.
Next time is likely to be different, given the Chinese experience here in Honolulu. This treatment of the Chinese fishermen is inexcusable, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Brady's disinclination to offer an explanation when invited to by a reporter is disturbing indeed.