9 foreigners detained over banned videos

Updated: 2015-07-16 07:46


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China detained nine foreign tourists-five South Africans, three Britons and one Indian-for suspected ties to a "terror group" after authorities accused them of watching banned videos.

China's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the nine were "criminally detained"-a term meaning suspects have likely been charged and could be prosecuted-and that 11 others will be deported. All are suspected of violating the law, the ministry said without elaborating.

Law enforcement authorities in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, where the group was detained, are in touch with diplomatic and consular officials from their countries, the ministry added.

Imtiaz Sooliman, head of the Gift of the Givers Foundation, a South African charity, quoted Chinese authorities as saying that some of those arrested had been watching propaganda videos from a banned group while in their hotel room.

Shameel Joosub, chief executive of South African telecom firm Vodacom Group Ltd, said members of his family were among those detained.

Sooliman said the group also included a veteran of the African National Congress' military wing, which was co-founded by Nelson Mandela.

"There's no way possible that they were part of any terrorist group," Sooliman said.

A British Foreign Office spokeswoman said, "Consular staff have visited the group to provide assistance, and we are liaising with Chinese authorities."

The South African embassy declined to comment. An Indian embassy spokesman said he had no information on the matter.

The group was on a 47-day historical tour of the country when they were detained at an airport in the Inner Mongolian city of Ordos.