China Probes Detained South Africans Over Terrorism Activity

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Chinese authorities are investigating at least five South Africans detained in the country over possible involvement in a terrorist organization, according to South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

“No charges have been posed officially at this stage but they are being detained and may be charged for allegedly contravening regulation 120 of the criminal law” of China, Nelson Kgwete, a spokesman for the department, said by phone on Thursday. The rule deals with anyone involved in organizing, leading and attending a terrorist organization, Kgwete said.

Twenty South African, British and Indian nationals were held on July 10 at an airport in Erdos, Inner Mongolia, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) west of Beijing. The brother, aunt and uncle of Shameel Joosub, the chief executive officer of mobile-phone company Vodacom Group Ltd., were among the group taken into captivity. Six of nine British nationals held -- including two with dual British-South African citizenship -- have been deported, with the remainder still in custody, a spokeswoman for the U.K.’s Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

“We’re still waiting for news,” Joosub said in an interview at Johannesburg-based Vodacom’s annual general meeting on Thursday. “They have been accused of watching some kind of propaganda video.”

The relationship between South Africa and China includes South African Airways’ partnership with Air China, while China Development Corp. agreed to a $2.5 billion loan to South Africa’s state-owned rail and ports operator earlier this year.

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is in Beijing for talks with ministers and business executives, said in a Wednesday statement it’s best to let inter-governmental departments deal with the matter.