London (PA) Three Britons among a group of tourists who were arrested in northern China are to be deported, the Foreign Office has said.
Among those who are being sent home are Hoosain Jacobs, 74, and his wife Tahira, 68, who had been travelling with their 18 friends in Inner Mongolia, according to a family spokesman.
In total 20 people were held in Ordos, on July 10. Of this group 11 people, which included six British nationals, have already been deported. The Jacobs are among nine tourists who are now being sent home.
South-African based charity Gift of the Givers said the 20 tourists – including nine Britons, 10 South Africans and one Indian national – were supposed to be exploring ancient China during a planned 47-day trip.
But the tour went “horribly wrong” on July 10 when they were arrested at Ordos Airport, Inner Mongolia, at 9.40am local time, the charity said.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: &
“Our consular staff have visited the detainees and received assurances from the Chinese government about their health and treatment. The embassy is in regular contact with the Chinese authorities both in Ordos and in Beijing.”
The Jacobs family spokesman said: “We are very happy and relieved to hear that the nine remaining tourists, who have been detained in Ordos, China, have now been released and are due to return back home in the next few days.”
The spokesman described the original group of 20 tourists as “a mixture of multi-faith men and women from both Islamic, Christian and Hindu religions who knew each other well and had travelled the world together in the past”, including Israel and the USA.
The spokesman said: “The peace-loving group of people aged 33 to 74 believe only in love and the unity of the human spirit, were on a private sight-seeing tour in China to see the ancient and modern wonders, and learn and experience new cultures.
“No one in the group has been charged and it is believed the reason theywere arrested was because of an unfortunate misunderstanding. They watched a 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.
“The group visited the Genghis Khan Mausoleum in Ordos on the day before their arrest. The group have suffered an unfortunate and stressful ordeal, and would now like to recuperate and spend time with their loved ones. They wish to express their thanks to the media for respecting their privacy, so that they may get back to living their normal lives.”
The charity said no formal charges were put to any of the 20 detainees.
In a statement on the Facebook page, the charity said: “No reasons were given for the arrest. Cellphones were confiscated, there was no access to the embassies of origin nor to their families.
“They were detained without charge with no access to any communication nor to legal representation.
“The Chinese, now trying to find reasons for the detention, suggested that some members were linked to a terror group, to a banned organisation, to watching propaganda videos in their hotel room.”
The BBC noted that South Africa’s foreign affairs minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said South Africa’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa had been in the country on an official visit and took up the case with his Chinese counterparts.