Two British visitors to China have been unable to leave the country since June after they were embroiled in the Chinese legal system following an alleged assault in a Guangzhou shoe store.
According to the SCMP, Mary Idowu and Esther Jubril-Badmos, both from London, had travelled to Guangzhou in mid-June on a shopping trip.
On June 21 the two women got into a dispute with a Guangzhou shop owner over a 500 yuan deposit for a pair of slippers, they were then detained by police on accusations of “provocation and disturbance of the peace”. The shop owner, who allegedly hit Jubril-Badmos so hard that she “saw stars”, was not arrested.
During their 38 day detention, their visas expired, meaning they would have to be issued an exit visa by Chinese authorities in order to leave the country.
According to the SCMP, the pair paid 45,000 yuan to settle the case, but police have refused to cancel their bail — a requirement for the exit visa — due to the “ongoing criminal investigation”.
During their detention, the women were told to sign several documents, all in Chinese, including a written confession. Neither women reads Chinese, nor were they told what they were signing.
No staff from the British Consulate in Guangzhou, or the Embassy in Beijing were available for comment as both offices are closed on Sundays.
A recent post on the British Embassy’s official blog by Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire discusses how the UK government deals with citizens detained in China (though it does not mention Idowu or Jubril-Badmos directly):
When British citizens are detained in China, awaiting trial or serving a prison sentence, regardless of what crimes they are accused of they will receive our consular assistance. When we receive notice that British citizens are detained, and with their permission, we will get in touch with their friends and relatives within 24 hours. During their detention, consular officials will visit them and learn of their welfare, so as to ensure that they do not receive worse treatment than local prisoners.
Despite Ambassador Swire’s promise of assistance, Idowu’s family members said they were “disillusioned” by the lack of support they received from Guangzhou consular representatives.
Idowu and Jubril-Badmos’s case is reminiscent of that of Hu Zhicheng, an American engineer who was sued by a Chinese competitor in 2008 and prevented from leaving the country. Hu finally returned home in June 2013.
Authorities estimate that it may take up to a year before the two women are able to leave China.
Contact details for the British Embassy in Beijing:
+86 (0)10 8529 6083
Contact details for the British Consulate in Guangzhou:
+86 (0)20 8314 3000
[Image: British Embassy in Beijing. Credit: Ray Ally]