Remaining five South Africans detained in China to be released

The saga has led some to fear that SA-Cina relations could be compromised. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

The saga has led some to fear that SA-Cina relations could be compromised. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

Spokesperson for the international relations and co-operation department, Nelson Kgwete, wrote on Twitter on Friday: “Chinese authorities informed the SA mission in Beijing that the remaining 5 nationals arrested in China will be released by July the 18th.”

The department’s other spokesman Clayson Monyela also tweeted: “The remaining 5 SA citizens still being held in China will be released and deported tomorrow. Victory for diplomacy. #DIRCO”.

On Wednesday, Dirco Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane confirmed that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa would use his official visit to secure the release of South Africans still detained.
She said Ramaphosa, who arrived in Beijing on Monday, would take the opportunity of his presence there to also raise this matter.

Nkoana-Mashabane also confirmed the statement by disaster relief organisation Gift of the Givers (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.

GOTG said on Wednesday that five of the ten South Africans arrested in the People’s Republic of China would be released. “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 at the time.

The six British nationals that were permitted to leave had flights secured on Wednesday and were expected to arrive back in the United Kingdom on Thursday.

Sooliman said that flights were confirmed for the five South Africans for Wednesday, but the Chinese stalled and said they cannot leave in spite of their earlier assurances. The five South Africans are expected to land in South Africa later on Friday.

On Tuesday, the department confirmed that a group of South Africans were arrested in China. Kgwete said South African government was notified on Sunday about the arrest.

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