Father of young SA teacher jailed in China 'ecstatic' about news of her release

2018-12-19 18:27
Tristan-Lee Niemand with her father Richard Bridger shortly before she departed for China. (Facebook)

Tristan-Lee Niemand with her father Richard Bridger shortly before she departed for China. (Facebook)

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"I'm ecstatic, I'm over the moon!"

That was the reaction of Richard Bridger – father of Tristan-Lee Niemand, 19, who has been in a Chinese prison since November 16 – when News24 contacted him following the news that she would be released.

After a harrowing month, Bridger, a professional hunter, received the news at around noon on Tuesday.

Niemand and six other South Africans will be released from prison in China and will be deported to South Africa, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said on Tuesday.

"The South African mission in Shanghai has informed the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu that the seven South African nationals in Jiangsu province have completed their detention period and will be released and deported back to South Africa," department spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said.

Bridger told News24 it was uncertain exactly when Niemand would be back in the country, but said it "should be by Sunday".

His daughter, who was planning to teach English in that country, was arrested on November 16 for having the incorrect visa to teach English in the city of Nanjing.

A court in Nanjing has since ordered the deportation of Niemand and her fellow teachers. The only hold-up is that the school that employed them – and which was also meant to arrange the correct visas for them, according to Bridger – has to supply them with return plane tickets to South Africa.

School being 'punished'

"The delay is basically until the tickets are confirmed," Bridger said.

"I offered to pay for the ticket myself, but it looks like it's a punishment for the school (to pay for the tickets)."

Bridger has still had no contact with his daughter.

"According to people there, the conditions in prison are very poor and the food is bad.

"She is not an experienced world traveller. That's why she used an agent – she did everything she was supposed to do."

Bridger told News24 the agency and school appear to be "a fraud".

"It has been the worst week of my life, it was traumatic."

Bridger says he was even contacted by "scam artists" attempting to elicit payment from him for information about his daughter.

Following Niemand's arrest, the family started a Backabuddy page to raise funds for legal fees, food and toiletries for the duration of her detention. The family also needs to refund a student teacher who has been sending Niemand money for food.

Mabaya told News24 on Wednesday that Niemand and the others would be released and deported as per international protocol, meaning that they would stay in custody until travel arrangements have been made.

"Therefore we don't know when they'll be back because we're not responsible for the travel arrangements.

"The school that employed them has been ordered by the court to arrange the plane tickets."

Mabaya said Dirco was monitoring the situation, as well as the deportation of eight South Africans who have been in distress in Zhejiang province. They are expected to return to South Africa on Sunday.

Read more on:    tristan-lee niemand  |  china  |  diplomacy

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