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15 Dec 2022

Ernest Mabuza, Sunday Times (South Africa)

S. Africa: Seven Chinese nationals charged for running factory with human trafficking and child labour from Malawi

‘Human trafficking, child labour case set to resume next year’ 13 December 2022

The stop-start trial of seven Chinese nationals appearing in the Johannesburg High Court for alleged human trafficking and child labour is set to resume in March next year after a Mandarin interpreter was finally secured. The previous interpreter withdrew because the accused complained as they did not understand the Chinese dialect he was speaking. The seven Chinese accused in the matter are Kevin Tsao Shu-Uei, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, and Zhang Zhilian. The accused were arrested in 2019 for allegedly running an illegal enterprise called Beautiful City, which was discovered at Village Deep in Johannesburg in a joint operation by the department of employment and labour's inspection and enforcement services branch, together with the Hawks and the department of home affairs.

“The Chinese factory is alleged to have been employing 91 illegal Malawian nationals, 37 of them were children. "The court has since heard that most of the Malawians working in the factory were transported to South Africa through containers,” the department said on Tuesday. The employers also allegedly subjected them to extremely cheap and forced labour. The accused are facing charges of human trafficking, 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 persons to remain in South Africa and failure to comply with duties of an employer.

… The department of employment and labour said five of the accused are out on bail. However, Chen and Zhang are now in custody for violating their bail conditions. The two tried on separate occasions to flee the country and were nabbed. The Malawian workers employed at the factory testified that the company's operations were carried out behind closed high steel gates with access strictly controlled. Workers were also allegedly subjected to beatings, insults and exposed to hazardous working conditions in violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.