A South African woman who was detained in Rui’an in Wenzhou City in China since January has detailed her experience.
Twenty-seven-year-old Sasha Redman, who hails from Table View, set her sights on the East-Asian country in 2017 and jumped at the opportunity of teaching English at Kings International – a school in Rui’an.
“I’ve always wanted to experience Asian culture and earn a better income, because being a teacher in China you’d get almost triple the average salary of a South African. When I first started, I earned about R22,000 a month.”
Redman, who has no tertiary education, says she was then promoted to be a training manager which upped her salary to about R25,000.
Her first trip went off without a hitch and she returned to China for her second stint in September 2017 after a brief holiday back in South Africa.
This time, however, the school told her she could return while on a student visa which she did in September last year.
Being back in Zhejiang Province was smooth sailing until she was arrested and interrogated.
“I discovered that the CEO of the school I worked for created a shell company which was registered under my name. In China, any business registered by a foreigner or any business that has foreigners working for them needs to be checked by immigration. I was arrested because I ‘owned’ the company which was hiring foreigners on incorrect visas. So essentially the school I worked for was hiring foreigners on student visas.”
Redman was detained on 29 January and spent 30 days in a detention facility, after which she was transferred to a correctional facility.
What she encountered is not something she’d wish on her worst enemy.
She had no contact with the outside world and credits her mental and emotional strength for surviving the lonely months.
“It’s been a little tough internally, because I feel like a big part of me was taken away, like integrity and dignity. You don’t realise it but four months in complete solitude with no connection to friends or family or just the outside world… it can really mess you up a little bit.”
She shared a room with 16 other offenders where they were commanded to sit cross-legged for hours each day. Her legs were in pain by the end of each day.
“Once I got arrested and treated like a prisoner with handcuffs, it was complete conformity. Everything we did was a command. You weren’t allowed to stand up when you wanted to. Going to the toilet, you needed to ask for permission and then someone needs to stand with you. So, there goes my privacy, there goes my dignity. There goes everything. I felt alone because of the language barrier, but my Chinese improved which is a good thing.”
Redman was deported last month and arrived in Cape Town on 13 June.
Despite her trauma, it was not all doom and gloom as she met and fell in love over there with another South African originally from Port Elizabeth. The loved-up pair plan to reunite in September for a holiday in Thailand.
The Department of International Relations and Co-opreation (Dirco) has reiterated that the onus is on citizens to ensure they have the correct travel documentation before accepting international job offers.
Dirco director of consular services Chris Chetty added to this by saying that a tertiary degree is required to legally teach English in China.
“One must be in position of a valid university degree. If your recruitment agency is telling you otherwise, that needs to be checked because there’s no way you can be teaching English abroad without a valid university degree.”
The department’s advising that citizens contact the relevant foreign embassy or Dirco to check the legitimacy of recruitment agencies.
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