The Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka said on Tuesday that an earlier report stating that Sri Lanka’s navy was still holding 37 Chinese fishermen is not accurate, Chinadaily.com.cn reports.

The fishermen are free to leave the trawlers and the incident was a misunderstanding, the embassy said.

The fishermen’s freedom was never limited during the incident, and it is now up to the fishermen whether to stay on the trawlers or to leave, said Yuan Baisheng, a consul of the Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s navy was quoted by Reuters on Monday as saying that it was holding 37 Chinese fishermen that were due to appear in court on charges of fishing within its waters, contradicting an earlier report from Xinhua News Agency saying that they had been released.

Sri Lanka’s navy forces told the Chinese embassy that it had not given the interview to Reuters, according to Yuan.

He said that the Chinese fishermen detained by Sri Lanka’s navy on Sunday night were not involved in illegal fishing activities.

The fishermen were working in two trawlers owned by a Sri Lankan shipping company, which bought the two vessels from China. Locals might have confused the Sri Lankan vessels with Chinese vessels, due to old Chinese logos on the ships, Yuan said.

“The fishermen were free to move around during the ‘detention’,” said Yuan, but the details surrounding the incident need to be further clarified.

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