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China apologises for hostage incident -

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PETER CAVE: The Chinese Government went into damage control mode last night after 10 Australians
were taken hostage by a local man who was eventually shot dead by police. Worried that foreigners
might perceive China to be an unsafe place to travel in the year of the Olympics, a Government
spokesman offered a personal apology.

All 10 of the Australian travel agents whose bus was seized, are due to return home to Australia
this morning.

China correspondent Stephen McDonell reports from Shanghai.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Last night the Chinese Government offered an official apology to an Australian
travel agent. She and her translator were held hostage by a man with explosives, even after the
nine other Australians were released. Two hours later, the man was shot dead by police.

Chinese Government spokesman, Qin Gang, is well liked by the foreign press corps, and an apology
from him does come across as being sincere.

QIN GANG (translated): I want to express my sincere apologies to the Australian tourist who was
kidnapped in this incident. We would welcome her to come back to China to travel in the future. I
hope that she won't feel unsafe in China because of this incident.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: In the year of the Olympic Games, the seizure of a bus full of travellers - worse
still travel agents - is a bit of a PR disaster for China. So the Government wanted to reassure the
world that travelling to this country is a safe option.

QIN GANG (translated): The Chinese Government always pays close attention to protecting foreign
citizens' lawful rights. You think about it. Compared to other countries in general, foreigners in
China are safe. We will continue to provide a safe environment for foreigners who are working,
studying, living and travelling in China.

With the Beijing Olympics approaching, there will be a lot of people coming to China so we'll
definitely strengthen measures to make people safe.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: When the Australians who'd been held hostage left their Shanghai hotel last
night, they were whisked along by a team of Australian and Chinese officials.

The United States' regional security officer was also there for a briefing about the incident. But
the travelling group of Australians was either unwilling to, or discouraged from, speaking to

Australian diplomatic officials were also unwilling to shed any light on the situation.

(To official) Can you tell us anything about today's events, yesterday's events?


STEPHEN MCDONELL: Just anything at all about -


STEPHEN MCDONELL: Their state of mind or something like that?


STEPHEN MCDONELL: When the one time hostages boarded their bus for the airport they did look
visibly relieved to be going home. Some took out their cameras and started taking photos. They'll
arrive back in Australia this morning.

This is Stephen McDonell in Shanghai for AM.