Five of ten South Africans detained in China to be released

FILE PICTURE: Chairman and founder of Gift of The Givers, Imtiaz Sooliman. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

FILE PICTURE: Chairman and founder of Gift of The Givers, Imtiaz Sooliman. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Five of the ten South Africans arrested in the People’s Republic of China will be released, disaster relief organisation, Gift of the Givers (GOTG) said on Wednesday.

Did you miss: China detains ten South African ‘terrorists’

“Following an intervention by both the South African and British governments in China yesterday there has been some movement regarding 11 of the 20 detained individuals,” GOTG founder Imtiaz Sooliman said.

He said representatives of the three governments met in Erdos, Inner Mongolia, and had “protracted discussions” and it was decided that no formal charges would be put to any of the 20 detainees.

“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,” Sooliman said.

The six British nationals that have been permitted to leave have flights secured on Wednesday and would arrive back in the United Kingdom on Thursday, he added.

“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. The five South Africans are now confirmed to fly out tomorrow if the Chinese don’t stall them again, and are expected to land in South Africa on Friday.”

On Tuesday, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) confirmed that a group of South Africans were arrested in the People’s Republic of China. Spokesman Nelson Kgwete said that South African government was notified on Sunday about the arrest.

“The arrest was confirmed and the embassy is in contact with the Chinese authorities,” Kgwete said at the time.

Kgwete’s comment followed the release of a statement by GOTG on Tuesday that 10 South Africans, nine Britons, and one Indian had been arrested, ending a tour of ancient China.

On Wednesday, Sooliman said they still had a problem getting five South Africans, three Britons and one Indian national released. He said the nine have not been formally charged.

“The family of the South African group are considering appointing a Chinese human rights lawyer to represent the family but to defend what as no charges have been put to them. 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,” said Sooliman.

“No charges have been put to the group but 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 said GOTG have received information that the Chinese government said that criminal charges would be put to the group. This could not be immediately confirmed.

GOTG called on Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was in China on an official state visit, to intervene.

Sooliman said it was “inconceivable” that the Chinese government was hosting the South African government and simultaneously incarcerating 10 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,” he said.

“The conditions in the detention centre, apparently, are not good. Family members are extremely worried and want finality on the issue.”

However, on Wednesday, Dirco Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane confirmed that Ramaphosa would use his official visit to secure the release of South Africans still detained.

She said Ramaphosa would take the opportunity of his presence there to also raise this matter.

Ramaphosa arrived in Beijing on Monday. Nkoana-Mashabane confirmed the statement by GOTG that five of the ten South Africans that were initially detained were now awaiting a flight back to Pretoria.

The South Africans are part of a tour group detained by the Chinese authorities reportedly on suspicion of association with a terror group or banned organisation.

Read more:

China detained SA ‘terrorists’ without charge – Sooliman

Ramaphosa securing SA tourists’ release on China visit



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