Article Posted: 18 DECEMBER 2019, 10:54AM / MWANGI GITHAHU
Cape Town – Henry van Neel, the South African teacher reportedly stranded in China, has made contact with the South African embassy in Beijing.
Mario Segal, the fellow South African who brought Van Neel’s plight to the attention of the media, said: “A Mr Stephens Makwela (First Secretary Admin & Consular South African Embassy, Beijing) confirmed that he spoke with Van Neel this morning (Tuesday). I was so relieved as we were unsure how he would survive the night.”
Segal had claimed over the weekend that Van Neel was in poor health.
However, when contacted for comment, Makwela said: “It would be appreciated if your enquiry can be directed to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) who will respond to you appropriately.”
By the time of publication, Dirco had not responded to enquiries.
Earlier this year Dirco said it was planning an awareness campaign around visa requirements for teaching English in China after several reports of South Africans there over an alleged immigration violation were published last year.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Deputy Consul General in Cape Town, Cao Li, said there was nothing he could do as it was a matter between a South African national and the South African Embassy in China.
In recent years there have been a number of incidents of foreign teachers being detained and deported for visa violations in China.
According to the Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) website, last year the Chinese embassy and consulates granted 1200 work visas to mostly South Africans to work as English teachers in China.
Another South African contact in China, who requested anonymity for fear of displeasing the authorities, said: “Van Neel should be speaking directly to the local Chinese Foreign Affairs Offices in the province he found himself stuck in, which is a separate division of the Chinese Immigration Office where his visa problem is currently.
“The South African embassy has no jurisdiction over immigration-related issues inside the borders of the People’s Republic of China.”