BEIJING • Chinese police say that foreign tourists detained and later deported from northern China "admitted" to watching videos advocating terrorism, state media reported yesterday.
The brief report from 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 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 cellphone "belonging to Hoosain Ismail Jacobs, a South African national".
Xinhua said that nine of the foreigners - five South Africans, three British and one Indian - were detained on the suspicion of "organising, leading or joining terrorist groups".
Xinhua said 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, it said.
All of the nine "admitted to their illegal acts and repented" before police imposed a "lenient sentence", of deportation, it 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.
The group included medical doctors, corporate executives and a former anti-apartheid activist, who were on a 47-day sight-seeing tour of China, starting in Hong Kong and ending in Shanghai.
They were arrested 30 days into their trip, before they boarded a plane to their next destination, the city of Xian.
Xinhua cited police as saying that 11 of the tourists were deported on Saturday, and the nine others on Wednesday.
However, a statement released on Friday by a spokesman for two of the tourists, Mr Hoosain Jacobs and his wife Tahira, said 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 can only be assumed that junior officials who made the initial arrest in Inner Mongolia made a mistake, due to perhaps their unfamiliarity" with English, it added.
China's government has launched a wide-ranging crackdown on what it claims to be "terrorism" in its mostly Muslim north-western Xinjiang region.
Several of those on the tour group were reportedly Muslims.
A new criminal law submitted last month to China's Parliament widens the list of activities which can be defined as "terrorism", state media said.