BEIJING (AP) — China has deported 20 foreigners from Britain, South Africa and India for watching video clips that advocated terrorism and religious extremism, the official state media reported, while two of the tourists reportedly blamed their detentions on a documentary about Genghis Khan.
Xinhua News Agency said late Saturday that the foreigners watched an unspecified documentary in a hotel room and later some of them watched video clips that advocated terrorism. Police also found similar clips on a cellphone belonging to one of the South Africans, Xinhua said.
It cited the foreign affairs office of Ordos city in China's Inner Mongolia region, where police had stopped the 10 South Africans, 9 Britons and one Indian on July 10 as they were going to fly to Xi'an, home of the terracotta warriors and their next stop on a 47-day tour of the country. The British Embassy had said the group included nine Britons and two with dual British-South African nationalities.
Britain's Press Association reported that the documentary was a BBC production on the 13th century Mongol warrior Genghis Khan, citing a statement from two of the British tourists, husband and wife Hoosain and Tahira Jacobs. They said that the video "may have mistakenly been deemed as 'propaganda' material.'"
"It can only be assumed that junior officials who made the initial arrest in Inner Mongolia made a mistake, due to perhaps their unfamiliarity of the English language," the statement said.
Genghis Khan can be a complicated figure in China.
In one sense, the warlord is one of the great leaders of Chinese history: His grandson founded a Chinese dynasty and back-dated its creation so as to name Genghis Khan as its creator.
But the ethnic Mongolian also united his forces with Turkic Uighurs and conquered much of what is today's Han Chinese-dominated China — a legacy that some could consider a rallying point for non-Han Chinese.
The Jacobs also said the tourists were a mixture of Muslims, Christians and Hindus who had traveled together in the past, including to Israel and the United States. They had visited the Genghis Khan Mausoleum in Ordos the day before they were stopped at the airport.
Xinhua said that five South Africans, three Britons and one Indian national were criminally detained on July 11 in connection with a law that "stipulates punishment for allegedly organizing, leading or joining terrorist groups."
It said the nine "admitted to their illegal acts and repented," without elaborating. It said police treated the case leniently and deported them on Saturday.
The other 11 were deported Wednesday.
Calls to the foreign affairs office in Ordos rang unanswered Sunday. A man on duty at Ordos police, who only identified his surname, Han, said he had no information on the case.