A group of 20 travelers from Britain, South Africa and India have been detained in northern China, a relative said Wednesday. A South African aid group said some of them are accused of watching videos deemed to be terrorist propaganda.
The British Embassy in Beijing confirmed that nine Britons and two dual British-South African nationals had been detained in northern China, and said six of them had been deported. It said it was ”seeking further clarification” from authorities on those still being held.
The group was initially detained Friday at the airport in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, and was being held without charge, Shameel Joosub, a relative of three of the detained people and CEO of South African telecommunications company Vodacom, said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.
”My family and I are deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of my brother, aunt and uncle,” Joosub wrote.
Imtiaz Sooliman, a South African disaster response specialist, said in a statement posted on the Facebook page of his agency, Gift of the Givers, that those detained were part of a group of 20 people – 10 South Africans, nine Britons and one Indian – who were on a 47-day tour of ancient Chinese sites.
Sooliman said that nine members of the group were accused of watching terror propaganda in their hotel rooms and that they would continue to be detained, but that the other 11 would be deported this week.
Sooliman said in a phone interview that a relative of some of the detained had contacted him to look into the detentions and that he was in close contact with South African authorities. He said the group had been heading from Ordos to the central Chinese city of Xi’an when they were detained at the airport.
The news of the detentions came as South African Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa was in Beijing on a trip to China that lasts until Friday. He met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday.
Asked to confirm whether South Africans, Britons and an Indian national had been detained on Friday at Ordos airport, a press officer at the Ordos police bureau said the case was under investigation but refused to give details.
The South African Embassy in Beijing referred requests for comment to authorities in South Africa, who were not immediately available. The Indian Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.