Race on to rescue 51 scammed South Africans trapped in China

2018-06-22 08:44
Aspiring South African teachers are trapped in China. (Supplied)

Aspiring South African teachers are trapped in China. (Supplied)

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South Africans have reached into their pockets in the defence of 51 young people detained by the Chinese government.

The group is being held in China to testify against their agent who brought them from SA to teach in Asia.

So far, over R40 000 has been raised on crowdfunding platform Backabuddy.co.za to help the South Africans – all under 25 years old – return to South Africa.

The Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) confirmed that Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was working to secure the release of the group.

"Our embassy in Beijing is liaising with the Chinese authorities in addressing this matter. We are also in touch with the Chinese ambassador to South Africa to have their passports released. The Chinese ambassador to South Africa has made an undertaking that he will expedite the matter," Sisulu said in a statement.

'Immigration laws'

It is alleged that Owen Wang, who claimed to represent Sanda Youth International, enticed the group to fly to China on study visas with the understanding that they would get work visas once there.

"While in China on study visas they started working, which was in contravention of the immigration laws of the Republic of China," said Dirco.

Family members blamed the agent for having abandoned their loved ones in China.

"The schools never enquired about their working visas and never received them from Owen Wang. Instead our children were paid half their agreed upon salaries and told to hide from the police when they were investigated," said Liza Bold, whose 21-year-old daughter Lee-Ann is among the detainees.

"It all happened so fast. She was called to an interview in Krugersdorp and then Roodepoort. Then she had to submit a video showing how she would teach a class and when she was accepted she was immediately provided with a one-way ticket to China," said another mom, Lorraine Theron.

She is worried about her 19-year-old daughter Timoné being stuck in a foreign country with no means whatsoever to return home.

"I didn't even have the chance to throw her a going away party," she added.

Legal process

The young people are currently required to stay in the confines of their university dormitory and Bold suggested that South Africans in China should visit them for moral support.

"It would be great if someone could go and visit the kids and just let them know that, apart from their parents, there are other people out there that care for them too."

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Dirco said that the legal process should run its course.

"We are very much aware that the Chinese authorities will follow their own legal process when such a violation occurs and deal with the matter accordingly," said Sisulu.

She said that her ministry would work with the police and Department of Home Affairs to educate South Africans about the pitfalls of working overseas.

"We appeal to all South Africans to be cautious of these scams and to check with the relevant authorities before travelling to other countries. Dirco will continue to provide consular assistance to those South Africans in distress and also to keep those affected families informed of the latest developments," Sisulu warned.

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Read more on:    dirco  |  lindiwe sisulu  |  china  |  labour  |  immigration

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