China arrests: 5 released, expected in SA by Friday

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub's family members are among those being held in custody.

Ordos Ejin Horo Airport in Inner Mongolia. Picture: Mongolia Tourism.

JOHANNESBURG - Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers says it now expects to see the first of a group of South Africans arrested in Mongolia return home before the weekend.

Twenty people were taken into custody, 10 of them South Africans, in Inner Mongolia on Friday with news of their detention reaching their families and governments only on Sunday.

While five appear to have been allowed to leave and are expected home this Friday, the fate of the remaining five is uncertain.

Family members of several of the South Africans being detained said the allegations that they watched propaganda films in their hotel rooms could be a huge misunderstanding.

The group appears to have been accused of also having links to a terror group, but Gift of the Givers says the South Africans were on a tour of ancient China and are prominent businessmen, doctors and even an uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) veteran.

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub has several family members who are being held in custody.

He's described the arrests as 'bizarre' and is calling on government to do everything it can to bring them home.

Joosub has four family members caught up in the arrests.

He says the tourists were apparently watching documentaries of Genghis Khan in their hotel.

"They say they looked okay but basically the conditions are not great. They're not allowed to communicate, they weren't even allowed to contact the embassy. We kind of only discovered it when the operator kind of got worried, saw something was amiss and gave me a call."

Joosub says this is an anxious time for all families.

"They're quite distraught and you can just see that the life has been taken out of them, you know. Their kids are gone."

He says they're exploring the option of hiring an international human rights lawyer to deal with the matter.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom said it will ask Chinese authorities to explain why a party of Britons have been detained, together with South Africans and an Indian national, in Inner Mongolia.

UK government officials have refused to comment on whether the party of British, South African and Indian travellers have been accused of terror-related offences by their Chinese hosts.

However, a spokeswoman for Britain's Foreign Office told EWN that 'further clarification' was being sought from authorities in China.

It has also emerged that British consular staff have already visited the UK nationals and have been liaising with Chinese officials.