Ramaphosa is currently in China on a state visit, being hosted by China’s Vice President Li Yuan Chao. Aid organisation Gift of the Givers (GOTG) said it was putative for Ramaphosa to discuss the detention of 10 South African citizens, after they were arrested by Chinese authorities who claimed they had links to terrorist groups.
“It is inconceivable that a government hosts another government on a state visit and simultaneously incarcerates 10 of its citizens without charge. The Chinese must be told in no uncertain terms to provide the evidence and proof if the South Africans have terror links, charge them and take them to trial, alternatively, they must release them immediately and unconditionally.”
The group, along with nine Britons and one Indian national were taken in at Erdos Airport, Inner Mongolia, on Friday.
“They were detained without charge with no access to any communication nor to legal representation,” said GOTG Founder Imtiaaz Sooliman.
Department of international relations spokesperson Nelson Kgwete said the department was in discussion with the Chinese government.
According to Sooliman, it was understood that no formal charges were being put to those detained, following discussions between all the relevant governments.
“It was agreed that 11 will be ‘released’, meaning that they will be held in detention until flights have been finalised for them out of China. The six British nationals permitted to leave have flights secured today and will arrive in the UK tomorrow.
“Flights were confirmed for the five South Africans for today also but the Chinese stalled and said they cannot leave today in spite of their earlier assurances,” said Sooliman.
He said the families of those still detained, which included doctors, businessman and relatives of Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub, were considering hiring a human rights lawyer in China.
“Information received from China this morning is very disconcerting as we were told that many of the top human rights lawyers have been arrested by the Chinese government.”
He said it was understood those remaining would now be formally charged but it was unclear what this meant.
“The Chinese have been very vague saying that someone in the group has some links to a suspected terror group and that someone has some links to a banned group and that the real reason for the incarceration is that someone was watching propaganda videos in the hotel.”
Sooliman called on Ramaphosa, saying families were distressed.