South Africa: Chinese Human Trafficking and Child Labour Trial Postponed

The trial of seven Chinese nationals arrested for alleged human trafficking and child labour was postponed in the South Gauteng High Court on Monday to Friday next week as the court tries to secure a Mandarin interpreter.

“It emerged in court today that the previous interpreter spoke Cantonese and the accused were battling to follow proceedings as they did not understand the language. Cantonese is one of the dialects of the Chinese language,” the Department of Employment and Labour said on Monday.

The seven Chinese accused are Kevin Tsao Shu-Uei, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, and Zhang Zhilian.

According to the department, the suspects are facing an array of charges, including trafficking in persons, contravention of the Immigration Act, kidnapping and pointing a firearm.

They face debt bondage, benefitting from the services of a victim of trafficking, conduct that facilitates trafficking, illegally assisting persons to remain in South Africa and failure to comply with the duties of an employer.

“In another development accused number two, Chen Hui also tried to flee South Africa using the Lebombo/Ressano Garcia border post,” the department said, adding that he was arrested in September and is now in custody.

Hui, who is accused number seven, now joins Zhilian who is also in custody after she violated her bail conditions by trying to flee the country and was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport on 24 February 2021.

The department said the rest of the accused are out on bail.

“In October 2021, the accused in a written statement read by their attorney Jannie Kruger made an admission of guilt for violation of several South Africa’s labour laws. However, the other charges still stand and they will continue to face trial on those.”

Kruger, according to the court, told the court the suspects did not understand English. In the interest of justice the State has a responsibility to get an interpreter who speaks Mandarin, he had said.

The accused were arrested in 2019 for allegedly running an illegal enterprise called Beautiful City Pty Ltd located at Village Deep in Johannesburg.

The operation was led by the Department of Employment and Labour’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) together with the South African Police Services (SAPS) Hawk Unit and the Department of Home Affairs.

“The Chinese factory was allegedly processing the inner cotton of blankets using recycled clothing.”

They have pleaded not guilty to the other charges and are expected back in court on 21 October 2022.


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