Indian officials on Thursday held hectic talks with their Chinese counterparts to secure the release of an Indian national, who along with eight other foreigners was “criminally detained” for allegedly watching extremist videos and distributing “terrorist” materials. While earlier reports said the nine, including Rajiv Mohan Kulshrestha, were detained at Ordos Airport in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region for watching terror-related videos, the case became more intriguing after a local Chinese official said they also tried to propagate terrorism.
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Zhang Xi, an official in Ordos in charge of dealing with foreigners, said: “These people are suspected of watching and spreading violent terrorist videos and were arrested last Friday.” The South African charity Gift of the Givers, which sent a 20-member group on a 47-day tour to China, said in a statement that the nine are still held at a detention centre.
The group of five South Africans, three British and one Indian national included several doctors and relatives of prominent businessmen. All the 20 were taken into custody on July 10. While China deported six British nationals yesterday and five others may be allowed to go, state-run China.org.cn said nine others, including Kulshrestha, were “criminally detained” – a term meaning suspects are likely to have been charged and could be prosecuted.
“No charges have been put to the group but the Chinese have been very vague saying that someone in the group has some links to a suspected terror group and that someone has some links to a banned group and that the real reason for the incarceration is that someone was watching propaganda videos in the hotel,” Gift of the Givers foundation said.
Officials of the Indian Embassy here which formally sought consular access to meet Kulshrestha at Ordos held several rounds of talks with various Chinese agencies to get him released. Serious efforts were on to get him released, an Indian official told PTI, adding that there is no delay to meet him through consular access. While the officials declined to give any details about charges being levelled against him by Chinese, efforts were on to secure his release and deport him back to India.
Shameel Joosub, chief executive of South African telecom firm Vodacom Group Ltd, said members of his family were among those detained. Imtiaz Sooliman, head of the Gift of the Givers Foundation, said the group also included a veteran of the African National Congress’ military wing, which was co-founded by Nelson Mandela and that “there’s no way possible that they were part of any terrorist group”.