The trial of seven Chinese nationals arrested for alleged human trafficking and child labour was today postponed in the Johannesburg High Court to next week Friday because the Court is still trying to get 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 dialect of Chinese language.
The seven Chinese accused are Kevin Tsao Shu-Uei, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, and Zhang Zhilian. They are facing schedule six offenses which include trafficking in persons, contravention of Immigration Act, kidnapping, pointing a firearm, debt bondage, benefitting from the services of a victim of trafficking, conduct that facilitates trafficking, illegally assisting person(s) to remain in South Africa, and failure to comply with duties of an employer.
In another development accused number two, Chen Hui also tried to flee South Africa using the Lebombo Border post. He was arrested last month (September) and is now in custody. He now joins another fellow accused (number seven) Zhang Zhilian who is also in custody because on 24 February 2021 violated her bail conditions by trying to flee the country. She was arrested at the OR Tambo International Airport. The other accused are out on bail.
Last 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 told the Court that the accused could not understand a “single word” in English. He said in the interest of justice the State has a responsibility to get an interpreter who speaks Mandarin.
The accused were arrested in 2019 for allegedly running an illegal enterprise called Beautiful City Pty Ltd located at Village Deep in Johannesburg in a joint operation 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. The accused have pleaded not guilty to the other charges. They are expected back in court on 21 October 2022.
Prosecutor, Advocate V. Dube said in the next appearance the State will be submitting what is called Section 66 application and to sort out the issue of the interpreter.