Para­noia in China

CityPress - - News - PADDY HARPER paddy.harper@city­press.co.za

A“misun­der­stand­ing” by overzeal­ous Chi­nese po­lice over a doc­u­men­tary on Genghis Khan is un­der­stood to have led to the de­ten­tion of 10 South African trav­ellers to China, the last of whom were set to be re­leased with­out charge and de­ported home last night. A UK-based spokesper­son for the fam­ily of Hoo­sain Ja­cobs (74) and his wife, Tahira (68), who were part of the 20-mem­ber tour group ar­rested in Or­dos, In­ner Mon­go­lia, last week, said the in­ci­dent was be­lieved to have been sparked by para­noid po­lice in the po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive re­gion.

The spokesper­son, who did not want to be iden­ti­fied, said the tourists were ar­rested on July 10, which was day 30 of the 47-day tour – and the day af­ter they vis­ited the Genghis Khan Mau­soleum in Or­dos.

They were stopped as they were about to board a plane for Xi’an in Shaanxi Province, the next stop on their tour.

“They watched a BBC doc­u­men­tary on Genghis Khan to fur­ther their un­der­stand­ing of the re­gion they were in at the time, and this may have mis­tak­enly been deemed as pro­pa­ganda ma­te­rial. It can only be as­sumed that ju­nior of­fi­cials who made the ini­tial ar­rest in In­ner Mon­go­lia made a mis­take, due to per­haps their un­fa­mil­iar­ity with the English lan­guage,” the spokesper­son said.

Yesterday, South African diplo­matic of­fi­cials said they ex­pected that the re­main­ing five de­tainees – Hoo­sain Is­mail, Salim Aziz Joosub, brother of Vo­da­com CEO Shameel Joosub, sur­geon Feroz Suli­man, his doc­tor wife, Shenaaz Mo­hamed, and an un­named trav­eller – would be re­leased and put on a flight home.

“We can con­firm that the re­main­ing South Africans who had been de­tained were sched­uled to be re­leased to­day,” said depart­ment of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and co­op­er­a­tion spokesper­son Nel­son Kga­tle.

“We are not sure as yet when they will be ar­riv­ing here. It should be to­mor­row [Sun­day].”

The spokesper­son for the Ja­cobs fam­ily – UK-based dual na­tion­als who were trav­el­ling on South African pass­ports on the Hong Kong-to-Shang­hai tour or­gan­ised by China Odyssey Tours – said se­nior Chi­nese po­lice of­fi­cials had re­solved the “un­for­tu­nate misun­der­stand­ing” in a “swift man­ner”, for which the fam­ily was grate­ful.

He said they were “very happy and re­lieved” to hear the other nine tourists had been re­leased and were ex­pected home soon.

The fam­ily was “tired af­ter their or­deal, but in good spir­its”.

“While the ex­pe­ri­ence was dis­tress­ing, they say they were looked af­ter at all times and treated well,” he said.

It is un­der­stood that Chi­nese author­i­ties re­alised that the ar­rests were a mis­take af­ter five days of lob­by­ing by depart­ment of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and co­op­er­a­tion of­fi­cials, and af­ter the is­sue was raised by Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, who was on a visit to China this week.

The fam­ily spokesper­son thanked Ramaphosa, the depart­ment and the Bri­tish and In­dian gov­ern­ments for their in­ter­ven­tion.

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