Beijing/London | An Indian was among 20 foreigners arrested in northern China for alleged terror links as an excursion by the group associated with a religiously inspired African charity founded by an Indian-origin man went horribly wrong.
The reason behind their arrest remains unclear but the tourists, including nine Britons and one Indian, detained at Ordos airport in Inner Mongolia on July 10 were linked to the South Africa-based charity, Gift of the Givers, founded by Indian-origin Imtiaz Sooliman.
This was supposed to be a tour to explore ancient China; a planned 47-day journey for ten South Africans, nine Britons and one Indian national. A tour that went horribly wrong on Friday, 10 July, when they were arrested at Erdos Airport, Inner Mongolia, at 9.40 am local time, the charity group Gift of the Givers said.
According to the group, the tour operator realised something was wrong on Sunday, 48 hours after the arrests, and discovered that the holidaymakers had been detained after travelling to the airport. The Chinese suggested that some members were linked to a terror group, a banned organisation, and watching propaganda videos in their hotel room, the charity said.
The Indian Embassy in Beijing today sought counsellor access to the Indian national who was detained along with 20 other foreign tourists. We are in touch with Chinese officials in Beijing and Inner Mongolia, where he was taken into custody and sought counsellor action to meet the person, an embassy official said.
The official said the mission is aware of the identity of the detained Indian but declined to disclose details. The embassy contacted the relevant Chinese officials following reports of the detention of the 20 foreigners in the first such case in China, which is battling growing militancy in Xinjiang, bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Afghanistan.
The Gift of the Givers charity, in a statement today said, Following an intervention by both the South African and British governments in China yesterday there has been some movement regarding 11 of the 20 detained individuals. Representatives of the three governments met in Erdos, Inner Mongolia, where protracted discussions took place but no formal charges were put to any of the 20 detainees.
It was agreed that 11 will be ‘released’, meaning that they will be held in detention until flights have been finalised for them out of China, the group said on Facebook. We still have the problem of the other 5 South Africans, 3 British and 1 Indian national who are not free to leave and till yet have not been charged, it added.
The charity group said, the 6 British nationals permitted to leave have flights secured today and will arrive in the UK tomorrow. Flights were confirmed for the 5 South Africans for today also but the Chinese stalled and said they cannot leave today in spite of their earlier assurances.
The 5 South Africans are now confirmed to fly out tomorrow if the Chinese don’t stall them again, and are expected to land in South Africa on Friday, it said. Nine British nationals, and two British and South African dual nationals, have been detained in northern China.
Consular staff have visited the group to provide assistance and we are liaising with Chinese authorities, a British Foreign Office spokesperson said today. The charity group 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. It also dismissed the terror claim, saying These individuals have no terror links, no criminal record in their country.
China blames the separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) which has become active among the Uygur Muslims in the province in recent years. The Turkik speaking Uygur community has become restive in recent years over the increasing settlements of Han from other provinces.
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