‘Gift of the Givers Foundation’ said in a Facebook post that the group was on a tour to explore ancient China as part of “a planned 47-day journey for ten South Africans, nine Britons and one Indian national”.
It said the trip “went horribly wrong on Friday, July 10, when they were arrested at Erdos Airport, Inner Mongolia, at 9.40 a.m. local time”.
The charity said no reasons were given for the arrests.
“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.
“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,” the Facebook post said.
It went on to say that 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”.
A joint team from the South African Embassy and the British Embassy has met Chinese Foreign Ministry officials in this regard.
The Chinese have now agreed to release 11 out of the 20 detainees but “they will remain in detention without being charged until flights can be found for them out of China”.
“The other nine are being held without charge at a detention centre on the accusation that they were watching propaganda videos. They are five South Africans, three Britons and one Indian national,” the charity said.
In London, the British Foreign Office told the media that nine British nationals were among those arrested in northern China.