Cape Town – Tristan-Lee Niemand is one of at least 100 South Africans detained in China over visa violations.
The 19-year-old has been detained in Nanjing City since November last year and her family, along with the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco), have been working tirelessly to bring her back home.
Her father Richard Bridger said he had not had any contact with his daughter since she was detained.
He said Niemand took a job to teach English in China through an agency that promised they would get her a work visa. She was there with a student visa.
Bridger said there were rumours that the agency was involved in corruption with a high-ranking Chinese officials and that added complications to the matter.
“The agency said she needed to apply for a student visa and once over there, they would train her and she would be given a work visa.
“That is why we go with these agencies, because we thought they were going to help us.
“Since she was detained on November 16, I have had no contact with her, which is against human rights.”
“It has been a traumatic and emotional time for the family.
“We are fighting to get her home with lawyers in China and trying to see if Dirco can help in anyway,” he said.
Bridger started a BackaBuddy campaign, Bring Tristan-Lee Home, to help with their legal fees and by yesterday, the campaign had raised about R40 000 of the R100 000 target.
“As far as I am concerned, there was no reason to detain her. Yes, she had the incorrect visa but she went along with what the agency in China said. Why not just deport her?”
Niemand will be making a court appearance next week.
Dirco spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said deporting someone was expensive and was probably why the Chinese officials detained Niemand.
“What we can do is continue to put diplomatic pressure, considering the good relationship we have with China.
“We are trying to warn South Africans, like this young lady and others, to not take short-cuts and get the proper visa,” Mabaya said.
He said applying for a student visa was a short-cut as it was easier to obtain compared to a work visa.
“The agencies say take a student visa and we will get you a work visa and then they disappear, and you are left alone. When you are South African you need a work visa, full stop.
"Otherwise you are taking chances and only the laws of that country apply.”