Chinese nationals accused of human rights violations granted bail
Durban - Seven Chinese nationals accused of human trafficking and violating South African labour laws have been granted bail with endorsement.
The seven - four males and three females - were arrested on November 1 following a joint operation conducted by the Department of Employment and Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) branch in Gauteng together with the South African Police Services (SAPS), Department of Home Affairs and the Hawks Unit.
Delivering the ruling in one of the few courts that has consistently been operating since the national lockdown, Magistrate Basimane Molwana said all accused be it locals or foreigners were equal before the law. Molwana said the accused had a right to be heard in the long-drawn bail hearing.
He said he was not impressed that the accused have to this day not been served with an indictment.
The men, Kevin Tsao, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, and Zhang Zhilian were denied bail in March. They had initially applied for bail in November.
As a result the defence decided to lodge a second bail attempt on new facts. On May 25, the Magistrate ruled that there were grounds for defence to apply for second bail.
The prosecution had dismissed the submission by defence of a second bail attempt as the “reshuffling of old arguments as new facts”.
Magistrate Molwana ruled that while Covid-19 was not a new ground to lodge bail on new facts, but the lockdown was a new ground to apply for bail.
Tsao was granted a bail of R70 000 with conditions to leave his place of resident only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. A naturalised South African, he is also having a pending matter which is being heard at the Alexandra Court.
Hui was granted bail of R55 000. He also has a previous conviction.
The remainder of the accused were granted bail of R30 000 each with strict conditions.
Accused two to seven are expected to be granted a place of dwelling by accused number one.
They are not allowed any movement beyond their complex. The are only allowed movement out of their premises only to sign at the Cleveland Police Station between 6am and 6pm.
The seven accused appearing in the matter were arrested for allegedly running an illegal enterprise called Beautiful City Pty Ltd located at Village Deep in Johannesburg.
Their arrests followed a tip-off that the Chinese nationals were allegedly involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants into South Africa and subjecting them to forced labour.
During the joint blitz 91 Malawian nationals were found in the factory, 37 of them were children. During the bail hearing, the court heard that the Malawians working in the Chinese factory were transported to South Africa using containers.
The Malawians are alleged to have been brought to South Africa by a middleman known as “the transporter” who is still on the run.
The Chinese factory was allegedly processing the inner cotton of blankets using recycled clothing. It is alleged that the company’s operations were carried out behind closed high steel gates with access strictly controlled by employers. Workers were also allegedly exposed to appalling working conditions without adhering to occupational health and safety.
In an affidavit submitted by the SAPS/Hawks in Court, the authorities intend to charge the accused with schedule six offence.
The accused will face charges ranging from human trafficking, violation of Immigration Act, debt bondage, kidnapping and pointing of a firearm.
The Department of Employment and Labour has since joined in the matter to press for the prosecution of the accused for violating South Africa’s labour laws.
Prosecutor in the matter Advocate Dube told the Court of her intention to file for an appeal.
The accused have been remanded in custody. They are expected back in Court on August 7.IOL