Details of charges against South Africans held in China still sketchy

2015-07-15 09:29

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Johannesburg - The Department of International Relations and Co-operation said on Wednesday it had no fresh information on the arrest and detention of 10 South Africans in China, adding that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's official visit to the country was not connected in any way to the incident.

"He was in China but his visit in China was not related to the incident at all...His visit there has nothing to do with the incident in Mongolia," spokesperson Nelson Kgwete told broadcaster 702.

"Judging by the status of the incident, it is still being managed by the embassy and it will be finalised by the level of the embassy intervention."

The deputy president is in the country leading a South African government, business, and state-owned enterprises delegation on an official visit.

The visit is scheduled to end on Friday.

Arrested without charge

On Tuesday, humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers said the 10 South Africans were arrested without charge in China on Friday, with their cellphones confiscated and no access given to their embassies of origin or families.

Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman said in a statement they were part of a 20-strong tour group detained by Chinese officials. The tour group were on a planned 47-day trip to explore the country, and comprised of 10 South Africans, nine British nationals and one Indian national.

Chinese authorities have since agreed to release 11 members of the tour party - among them five South Africans - but Sooliman said they would remain in detention without being charged until flights out of China could be found for them.

"The other nine are being held without charge at a detention centre on the accusation that they were watching propaganda videos. In the group is five South Africans, three Britons and one Indian national," Sooliman said.

"Of the five South Africans being held, three are direct relatives of Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom. Salim Aziz Joosub, Shameel's brother, is CEO of Capital and Financial Brokers."

Homecoming confirmed

Kgwete confirmed that the five South Africans who were released were expected to arrive home on Friday.

"Yes, that is what we have been informed and we expect they will make their way home once their transport arrangements have been finalised."

Asked if the five other South Africans remained in custody, he said that was what had been relayed to the department from its embassy in Beijing.

"They have been charged formally, so I cannot say what the nature of the charges [are] but the information is what has been conveyed to their families and reported in the media," he said.

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

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