11 British nationals among 20 tourists arrested in Inner Mongolia

Their ages and identities have not yet been made public by authorities

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The Independent Online

Nine Britons and two people with joint British and South African nationality have been arrested in northern China, the Foreign Office (FCO) has confirmed.  

Consular staff visited the group who were arrested in Inner Mongolia, an FCO spokesman said, adding that they were “seeking further clarification” on why they had been detained. Their ages and identities have not been made public by either Chinese or British authorities. “We understand six of the British nationals will be deported shortly,” he said.

“The Chinese criminal justice system differs greatly from the UK’s... Suspects may be detained for weeks or months before charges are laid or given a travel ban preventing them from leaving China.

“Courts generally don’t grant foreigners bail. Travel bans can also be imposed on people involved in private or business disputes.”

The group were travelling with eight other South Africans and one Indian national on a month-long tour of ancient China when they were detained at the airport of the regional capital Ordos just before 10am on Friday, according to South African broadcaster News 24. 

The group’s mobile phones were confiscated and they were unable to alert their families or embassies for 48 hours, the station reported. It was only when a tour operator, working for Chinese Odyssey Tours, became concerned about the group’s whereabouts that the arrests were discovered, they said. 

After the British and South African consular teams intervened, 11 of the 20 were told they were free to leave – but will be held in custody until the next flight departs on 19 July, according to News 24.

More than 5,400 British nationals were detained by police overseas between April 2013 and March 2014, according to the FCO’s British Behaviour Abroad Report 2014. The latest data is yet to be published. During that time 130 people were arrested in China, including seven people for drug offences which carry “extremely severe penalties” including the death penalty.

There is no suggestion that any of the most recently arrested Britons were involved in the drugs trade.