China visa scam: Mother of stranded SA teacher shares her heartache

Kids-in-chinaCurrently, 50 South African teachers who were sold a dream of living and working in China are facing up to a nightmare reality after being duped by a heinous visa scam.

Owen Wong – a man who claimed to represent a company called Sanda Youth International had falsely told all the applicants that he needed their passports to complete details on their work visas.

However, he was jailed shortly afterwards on multiple counts of fraud. Without their passports, every single one of the 50 young professionals were unable to continue working at their school. In fact, as they are now part of a Chinese criminal investigation, they are confined to their shared university dormitory.

China visa scam: How are the teachers surviving?

Stranded and strapped-for-cash, the victims of the fraudster have been left to rely on donations from the Chinese branch of SAFFA a network of South African expats based all around the world.

SAFFA have been delivering food and toiletries to the teachers and the university they are based at is also contributing. Nonetheless, with their children marooned in a foreign land and living hand-to-mouth, it’s left the parents horrified.

Charlotte Engelbrecht knows this pain all too well. Her daughter Marizaan, 21, is one of the teachers stuck in the Far East. She’s revealed to us just how painful the experience has been for her and other parents:

“Since this happened and we started a support group with the other parents, it has been an emotional boat on troubled waters. My daughter did not have an easy life and grew up without a father for most of her childhood years.”

“She always wanted to be a teacher, but I couldn’t afford to send her to study. She was so happy in China. The children loved her at the school. She got along with her peers but now, all is in vain. One greedy person did not follow the rules and stole from my child.”

The truly heartbreaking thing for the Engelbrechts is how close Marizaan came to escaping this wretched visa scam situation.

She’s been out in China since December but was in possession of her passport still. Marizaan surprised her mother with a flight home in May, but then her passport was seized once she returned. Her dream job and her freedom were taken away.

Parents left in the dark by DIRCO

Charlotte has called upon DIRCO and Minister of International Relations Lindiwe Sisulu to step up their efforts to resolve this diplomatic issue. The families have been frustrated with the government’s languid and uninformative response.

All they’re asking for is a clear update on what happens next. The parents were left uninspired by DIRCO representative Ndivhuwo Mabaya’s vague promise to “make sure these people come home” during Sunday’s Carte Blanche episode.

An email sent to Charlotte by the department also claimed that “the embassy is not permitted to become involved in the legal processes followed by the Chinese authorities.”

Both the families and their children are being left in limbo. They have even started their own BackABuddy page, to receive donations and keep their children safe. They are welcoming all contributions if you feel like helping their cause.