Vodacom CEO’s relatives among detainees in China

Ten South Africans are among a tour group detained by the Chinese government on suspicion of association with a terror group or banned organisation.

The detentions come as China is hosting Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and several government officials on a trade-related visit.

While the Department of International Relations is trying to ascertain the circumstances‚ Gift of the Givers says the group are being denied contact with their families‚ even today – four days after their arrest.

Among the South Africans being held are three relatives of Vodacom’s CEO and two medical doctors‚ according to the organisation.

Gift of the Givers’ Imtiaz Sooliman said in a statement the group had embarked on a tour to explore ancient China‚ “a planned 47-day journey for ten South Africans‚ nine Britons and one Indian national”.

On Friday‚ 10 July‚ they were arrested at Erdos Airport‚ Inner Mongolia‚ at 9.40 am local time. “It was only on Sunday‚ 48 hours later‚ when the tour operator realised that something was amiss and made the trip to Erdos‚ that the first information on the detained citizens came to light‚” he said.

Sooliman said the Chinese had suggested some members of the group were “linked to a terror group‚ to a banned organisation‚ to watching propaganda videos in their hotel room”.

A team from the South African Embassy and the British Embassy met with Chinese Foreign Ministry officials this morning.

Sooliman said the Chinese have now agreed to release 11 out of the 20‚ but they will remain in detention until flights can be found for them out of China. “At present 17 July is the earliest (date for a flight)‚” he added.

“The other nine are being held without charge at a detention centre on the accusation that they were watching propaganda videos.”

They are: 5 South Africans‚ 3 Britons and 1 Indian national‚ Sooliman said.

Of the five South Africans‚ three including a MK veteran‚ are direct relatives of Shameel Aziz Joosub‚ CEO of Vodacom.

The detainees include Dr Feroz Suliman‚ a general surgeon at Midrand’s Waterfall Hospital‚ and his wife‚ Dr Shehnaaz Mohamed‚ also a medical doctor.

“The families thank the South African government for their unwavering support and call upon the Chinese government to release the detainees immediately‚” Gift of the Givers said. “These individuals have no terror links (and) no criminal record.”

Ramaphosa’s itinerary in China today includes bilateral political and economic discussions with Vice-President Li Yuan Chao‚ followed by a meeting with Li Qiang the Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China ahead of “interacting with the Leadership of the Chinese Academy of Governance”. He is also due to address a banquet in his honour later in the evening.

The deputy president’s office said the bilateral discussions are expected to focus on trade and investment cooperation‚ financial cooperation including the BRICS New Development Bank‚ infrastructure development‚ energy issues‚ vocational training and South Africa’s co-hosting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)‚ to be hosted later this year in South Africa.

Deputy President Ramaphosa’s delegation comprises Ministers Lynne Brown‚ Blade Nzimande and Deputy Ministers Thembi Majola‚ Mzwandile Masina‚ Mcebisi Jonas‚ senior government officials‚ business leaders and state-owned enterprise executives‚ according to his office.

President Jacob Zuma paid a State Visit to China in December 2014.

By RDM News Wire

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Vodacom CEO’s relatives among detainees in China