South Africa: Accused in Chinese Factory Case Remanded in Custody

22 November 2019

The Seven Chinese and Taiwanese nationals, who were arrested last week in a raid at a factory allegedly involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants and subjecting them to forced labour, appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on Thursday.

The accused, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, Dai Junying, Zhang Zhilian, Kevin Tsao and Chen Hui, have not yet been formally charged.

They were remanded in custody and will appear again on 28 November 2019 for a bail application.

The accused were arrested on 12 November 2019 in a joint operation by the Gauteng Department of Employment and Labour's Inspection and Enforcement Services, the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Hawks Unit.

The joint operation at the premises of Beautiful City Pty Ltd, located at Village Deep in Johannesburg, found minor children employed at the factory, and that the employer was violating a suite of labour legislation ranging from the National Minimum Wage, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act and Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

An audit by the department found that there were 91 workers employed at the factory which manufactured the inner cotton of blankets using recycled clothing.

In addition to the labour law violations, the employer was found to be in defilement of South Africa's immigration legislation, by-laws, health regulations and engaging in child labour.

Beautiful City, which operated behind closed high steel gates, employed 150 employees, with 149 of them illegal/undocumented foreigners.

Employees were found to be working under appalling conditions.

Department of Employment and Labour's Gauteng Provincial Chief Inspector (PCI), Advocate Michael Msiza, said on Thursday the accused owes the Unemployment Insurance Fund R261 231.42 for non-registration, declaration and payments for 91 employees who were found on the premises.

"The employer has not only contravened the Unemployment Insurance Act and Unemployment Insurance Contributions Act, but has further spat in the face of the vulnerable by disregarding Section 27 of the Constitution of Republic of South Africa that guarantees employees the right to social security," said Msiza.

Last week, following the raid, Msiza said the team of inspectors that went on the operation expressed shock and disgust at what they described as "the most grim sight" they have ever come across.

He condemned the atrocities meted out by unscrupulous employers and warned that the department would not tolerate modern day slavery.

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