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Durban - Eight Chinese citizens arrested at KwaZulu-Natal’s only cigarette manufacturing company, in Pietermaritzburg, last week have complained to the Chinese consul-general about the treatment they have received since their arrests.
Diao Mingsheng met them at the Loop Street police station on Tuesday in a meeting attended by the Crisis and Disaster Centre, a human rights NGO.
The centre’s Ibrahim Shaik said the Chinese workers had revealed they had been charged without being told why, as no interpreter was present.
Some of them said they had not been allowed to put on their shoes when they were arrested.
Their bail application had been scheduled to be heard last Friday but was adjourned because of a power failure at the magistrate’s court. They said they were held with up to 40 people in the court’s cells.
They were also assaulted and robbed of money, cellphones and watches.
Shaik said the eight were arrested because of a technicality in their documents. They should not have been jailed, but fined instead, he said.
The Amalgamated Tobacco Manufacturing factory in Mkondeni, which started up in May, had shut down because of their arrest and detention.
As a result, its 60 employees were jobless.
The factory could not operate as only the Chinese knew how to use the machinery.
They had been sent by the Chinese company which sold the machinery to train local workers.
Shaik said he believed that “other forces were at play” in the arrests. “They (the Chinese) have passports and work permits. Somebody has realised that if they were to be detained, the factory would grind to a halt,” he said.
Shaik said the arrests could be linked to competition in the tobacco industry.
The acting provincial head of Home Affairs, Albert Matsaung, said on Monday that the Chinese machine operators had been arrested because their documentation did not allow them to work at the company.
They were due to appear in court on Tuesday.