BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese police say that foreign tourists detained and later deported from northern China "admitted" to watching videos advocating terrorism, state media reported Sunday.
The brief report by the Xinhua news agency is the most detailed official explanation provided of the detentions of the mostly British and South African tourists last week.
Police in China's Inner Mongolia region told Xinhua that the tourists "first watched a documentary in a hotel room. After some of them left, the rest proceeded to watch video clips advocating terrorism".
They added that police seized "similar" videos "from a mobile phone belonging to Hoosain Ismail Jacobs, a South African national".
Xinhua added that nine of the foreigners - five South Africans, three British and one Indian - were held on suspicion of "organising, leading or joining terrorist groups".
All of the nine "admitted to their illegal acts and repented" before police imposed a "lenient sentence," of deportation, Xinhua said.
A total of 20 visitors from South Africa, Britain and India were held at Ordos airport in China's northern Inner Mongolia region on Friday last week, sparking diplomatic concern.
Britain said 11 of its nationals were detained - two of them with dual South African nationality. London said on Sunday all had returned home.
Xinhua cited police as saying that 11 of the tourists were deported last Saturday, and the nine others on Wednesday.
A statement released by a British-based spokesman for Hoosain Jacobs and fellow traveller Tahira Jacobs said this week the detentions may have been made after an "unfortunate misunderstanding" concerning Genghis Khan, the famed Mongolian warlord.
"They watched a documentary on Genghis Khan to further their understanding of the region they were in at the time, and this may have mistakenly been deemed as 'propaganda' material," the statement said.
It was not clear whether the "documentary," referred to by police was about Genghis Khan.
China has launched a wide-ranging crackdown on what it claims is "terrorism" in its mostly Muslim northwestern Xinjiang region.
Several of those on the 47 day tour of China were reportedly Muslims.
A new criminal law submitted last month to China's rubber-stamp parliament widens the list of activities which can be defined as "terrorism", state media said.
Chinese police sometimes pressure criminal suspects to sign confessions before they have access to a lawyer.