5 arrested South Africans returning from China - charity

2015-07-16 16:38


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Johannesburg – Five of the 10 South Africans who were detained in China will return home on Friday, Gift of the Givers said on Thursday.

The charity organisation declined to reveal their names and did not want the media to interview them, as it could place those still in custody at risk, its founder Imtiaz Sooliman said in a statement.

While it had the names of all five individuals, it only knew one of them.

“It is, therefore, not ethical for us to release the names without permission from their families.

“We don't have permission from the families to allow the family members to speak to the media, so that poses another ethical problem. It's understood that the group must be psychologically and emotionally traumatised.”

Sooliman said they would leave China on Thursday night. He did not have the flight details as this had been arranged between the families and the tour operator.

The 10 South Africans were part of a group of 20 on a 47-day tour through China. They were arrested at Ordos City’s airport on Friday morning.

Eleven members of the group were being released – five South Africans and six Britons.

Still in detention were five South Africans, three Britons, and one person from India.

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub told Talk Radio 702 earlier that four members of his family – brother, uncle, aunt, and cousin - were part of the tour group. His cousin was among those being released.

On Thursday, a Chinese official told news agency AFP that a group of foreigners had been detained for distributing "terrorist" materials.

"Foreign tourists have been detained by the police here, I heard they looked at and propagated something about violence and terrorism," Zhang Xi, an official at Ordos's foreign affairs office told AFP.

Joosub said they were apparently accused of watching a “propaganda video”.

“What they were watching a couple of nights ago was basically a Genghis Khan documentary and so on... and the next thing they were all detained. All their phones were taken away and they were not allowed to make contact, and it was only on Sunday morning that we found out they had been detained, so today is the 6th day of detention,” he said.

He said South African embassy officials had told the family they were not sure why they were being held.

“They say they looked OK, basically the conditions are not great.”  

International relations spokespersons Nelson Kgwete and Clayson Monyela could not be reached for comment.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is currently on a state visit to China, said the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) was dealing with the matter.

"We are hoping that there will be a solution as time goes on,” he told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday.

"We think it is best to leave it at that level because the Chinese officials, as well as our department of international relations, are dealing with the matter, actively on an hour-by-hour basis."

Read more on:    dirco  |  gift of the givers  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  china

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