Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Two black tourists from Britain could be trapped in China for a year after what began as an argument with a shopkeeper ended with their arrest for disturbing the peace
Mary Idowu, 59, and Esther Jubril-Badmos, 48, both from London, have not been charged with any crime but have been told that they cannot leave the country until Chinese investigators finish looking into their case. The two women flew to the southern city of Guangzhou on June 16, 2013 for a week-long shopping trip. Jubril-Badmos had visited several times before, buying cheap Chinese goods to sell on her market stand or from her home. For Idowu it was an exciting chance, she said, to see this big country which she had always heard about for the first time. Visiting a local market, Jubril-Badmos found some black slippers she liked and ordered 20 pairs. She left a deposit of £50 and agreed that she might also take 15 pairs of fake Gucci slippers when she returned later to collect. When they went back three days later, Jubril-Badmos had decided against the fake slippers, but the shop insisted she take everything or lose her deposit. After they argued with the shopkeeper, Jubril-Badmos said that she was assaulted. "This man slapped me hard across the face," she said. "I was seeing stars for two to three minutes." She claims that she was then dragged out of the store by her hair and beaten so badly in the street that Idowu frantically called the police. At the police station, however, the situation unraveled further. After 32 hours of interrogation, the two women were sent to a local detention center where Idowu was held, sleeping on a bare floor in a 12-person cell, for the next six weeks. Jubril-Badmos was sent to a local hospital for three weeks, meanwhile, after she collapsed in the detention center. "The worst thing was the police trying to intimidate me to get me to sign forms in Chinese. I did not know what I was signing," said Idowu. "In detention, they gave me tablets for my blood pressure. I did not know what they were but they kept increasing until I was taking 16 tablets a day," she said. Idowu's two daughters arrived in China and helped to arrange their release on bail. A policeman that they named as Chen advised them that prosecutors had not found any evidence. "He said it was now a civil case, that the shop wanted to sue, and that we had to go and settle it out of court," said Idowu's daughter Laura, a 20-year-old law student. They were told that they had to pay nearly £22,000, including £3,500 for a broken jade bracelet and £15,000 for a diamond ring that had been lost in the fracas. In the end, the shop accepted £4,500 in settlement. However, the police later denied that settlement would help to cancel their bail and said that they remained under investigation. Under Chinese law this can continue for up to a year before they have to be charged.