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When Golden Venture got stranded

Historical photos of the accident in 1993. Photo:

In the bleak spring of 1993, the stranding catastrophe of Golden Venture (金色冒险号) shocked whole America.

Golden Venture—a boat built in 1969 with a length of 45 meters—could not accommodate passengers because it was not equipped with living facilities.

In 1992, a trafficker surnamed Li bought the boat for transporting mainland stowaways into the United States by sea.

In February 1993, Golden Venture set sail with 90 stowaways on board, and about another 200 joined them in March when the ship got to Virginia Mombasa.

Then, the ship sailed into the Atlantic Ocean through the Cape of Good Hope. By May 1993, it reached the open water of New York Queens. At that time, the boat had a total of 13 crew members and 286 stowaways from mainland China, which included some 24 females. They were mostly from Fuzhou, Southeast China’s Zhejiang province.

The original plan was that a contact in New York would bring a yacht to pick the passengers in the high seas. However, unexpectedly,  the contact got killed in a gang fight, and Golden Venture had to wait for a total of two weeks on the sea.

When they were running out of food and water, the trafficker decided to let all people swim for beaches. In the early hours of June 6, Golden Venture finally approached the Rockaway beach of the Queens (皇后区). The 286 stowaways jumped into the sea to swim to the beach. The coast guards soon spotted them and began to make arrests. It was finally found out that 10 got drowned, six escaped and all the rest put under arrest.

Thus the 286 stowaways on board met quite different fate. Among those arrested, 20 were held in New York, 48 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 117 in York, Pennsylvania, and 45 in Winchester, Virginia. Over 10 women were jailed in New Orleans, Louisiana and about 16 juveniles were transferred to a young offenders' institution in Michigan.

Based on incomplete statistics, during the period, 99 people voluntarily asked to be repatriated because they could not endure long-term imprisonment. And it is said that over 60 of them tried to sneak into the US again after they were sent back; 38 people successfully sought asylum; 12 were helped by Catholics to immigrate to the South and Latin America; two received green card for specialized talents; and 58 people were pardoned by President Clinton and released from prison, although they were required to report regularly to the immigration bureau.

Until today, two decades after the incident, there are still over 30 people who have failed to get legal identities and face the risk of repatriation any time.

In 2006, the stowaways of Golden Venture submitted a petition to the US House of Representatives and signed to support proposal No. #1180 put forward by Tod Platts, a representative of Pennsylvania, which urged President Bush and the Congress to suspend their repatriation and grant them indefinite permanent resident status.

The article was translated and edited by Rebecca Lin of

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