Six British nationals who were among the 20 foreign tourists arrested in northern China last week on suspicion of terror links have been deported, the British Embassy confirmed with the Global Times yesterday.
Nine Britons, 10 South Africans and one Indian national were detained at Ordos Airport in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on the morning of July 10 and later accused of ‘watching promotion videos from a banned terror group’ in their hotel rooms.
“Six have been deported, and the remainder [British nationals] are still detained. Consular staff have visited the group to provide assistance and we are liaising with Chinese authorities,” a spokesperson of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the embassy, told the Global Times.
African NGO Gift of the Givers (GOTG) wrote in a post published to Facebook on Tuesday that the group was on a 47-day tour to “explore the ancient China” when things “went horribly wrong”.
“No reasons were given for the arrest. Cellphones were confiscated, there was no access to the embassies of origin nor to their families,” the group said. “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.”
None of the detainees have been formally charged, GOTG said in a Facebook update, and representatives secured the release of 11 of the 20 yesterday—meaning they would be held in detention until they could arrange flights home.
Li Wei, an expert on counter-terrorism with the Chinese Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that the tourists’ detention “was warranted” and that their deportation was based on the UN Security Council’s order for countries to punish those who watch, promote and spread terror videos.
“Foreign tourists have been detained by the police here, I heard they looked at and propagated something about violence and terrorism,” Zhang Xi, an official at Ordos’s foreign affairs office, told AFP on Thursday.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman merely told the BBC that the group was suspected of “committing crimes”.
“Consular staff have visited the group to provide assistance and we have requested an explanation from the Chinese authorities about the reasons for detaining these individuals,” a UK Foreign Office spokeswoman said in the same report.
[Image via Wiki Commons]