Fears mount as ailing SA man stranded in China
Cape Town - A Cape Town man is reportedly stranded at Shenyang Taoxian International Airport in eastern China after his visa expired following the sudden loss of his teaching job, which he took up last month.
Henry van Neel, from Macassar, arrived in China on November 10 to take up a contract position at the Real English Education and Training School in the Pidu district of Chengdu City in Sichuan province in the south-west of the country.
Van Neel’s story is recounted in an email sent by a fellow South African, Mario Segal, who said he was writing from Tongzhou, Beijing. Segal is the founder of SEESworld, a non-profit group that advocates for workers, communities and small businesses.
In the email, Van Neel is described as “a South African teacher with over two decades of exemplary conduct, with all Chinese required documents authorised by Dirco (Department of International Relations and Co-operation) before he left SA.”
In his email, on Friday, Segal also said that Van Neel’s health was failing. “I have grave fears for him; his health is deteriorating rapidly. He requires urgent consulate assistance this morning.
“Van Neel taught at the school from November 11 until November 28. They paid him 2000 renminbi (R4139.80), then fired him for no valid reason.
“He is owed the severance payment of 10000 RMB (R20699), and unpaid wages,” said Segal.
Van Neel appeared to have travelled from the school to Shenyang airport in Liaoning, bordering North Korea, where he was currently stranded.
Segal said: “Van Neel has no money and his family is unable to help. He does have a ticket to Seoul that his local church in South Africa organised. He has been advised he cannot use the ticket and as his Chinese visa expired two days ago, so he cannot travel.
“Van Neel contacted the SA embassy yesterday (Thursday) and whoever he spoke to offered no assistance. I also called the embassy this morning and a consular official told me she was not at her desk and would call me back. I did explain how urgent this matter is. That was an hour ago”
According to his Facebook profile, Van Neel previously worked as an educator at the National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Napotsa) and the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).
The Chinese Deputy Consul General in Cape Town, Cao Li, said there was really nothing he could do as it is a matter between a South African national and the South African Embassy in China.@MwangiGithahu