Henna dispute: Chinese cruise ship passengers evacuated

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Media caption,

The Henna has been in the South Korean port of Jeju since Friday

Passengers have begun disembarking from a Chinese luxury cruise ship detained at a port on the South Korean island of Jeju over a legal dispute.

More than 1,000 people were scheduled to fly back to China on Sunday, the Chinese consulate in Jeju said.

Some 2,300 passengers and crew had been stuck on board the Henna since Friday.

A local court ordered the ship not to leave after a request from a Chinese shipping company. It is not clear what the dispute centres on.

The Henna made its maiden voyage under Chinese ownership earlier this year.

The ship, previously operated by the British-American company Carnival Cruises Lines, has been described as China's first luxury cruise liner.

'Rights infringement'

Four China Hainan Airlines planes would repatriate the passengers on Sunday, Chinese consul Chen Junjie confirmed.

Henna's operator issued a statement on Saturday saying the detention had "restricted personal freedom of those onboard and severely infringed upon the rights of innocent passengers".

China's National Tourism Administration contacted South Korean officials to demand the immediate release of the passengers.

The cruise liner had set off from Tianjin, a port city near Beijing, on Wednesday and was scheduled to sail around South Korea islands before returning to Tianjin six days later.

The ship's 1,659 passengers and 650 crew had been due to leave Jeju on Friday for Incheon, said HNA Tourism, the ship's Beijing-based Chinese tour operator.

But the local South Korean court issued a detention order after shipping service company Jiangsu Shagang International applied for a seizure.

The ship's operator provided free entertainment and food to passengers and crew while they were stranded on board.