British women 'beaten and left stranded' following row in Guangzhou shoe shop
British shoppers say they remain stuck in China months after being beaten by shop workers and arrested following a dispute over slippers
Two British women who travelled to Guangzhou on a week-long shopping trip in June remain stuck in the city two months later after an argument over counterfeit slippers led to them allegedly being assaulted.
Despite members of their families flying from Britain to China, attempts to get them onto a plane home have foundered because of a complex criminal investigation which could see them stranded in China for up to a year.
The families also say they have been left disillusioned by British diplomats in Guangzhou who they claim did little to help.
Britons Mary Idowu, 59, and Esther Jubril-Badmos, 48, from London travelled to Guangzhou on June 16 for shopping and planned to stay for a week.
But after getting into an argument over a 500 yuan (HK$630) deposit for a pair of slippers, the two were detained by police in Zhanqian, Liwan district, on June 21 for "provocation and disturbance of peace".
Their visas expired during their 38-day detention, leaving them stranded in China.
The women say that, despite paying 45,000 yuan to settle the case, police refused to cancel their bail - a condition required to apply for an exit visa - citing the on-going criminal investigation, which could take up to a year.
Jubril-Badmos said she ordered 15 pairs of slippers at 150 yuan each and put down a 500 yuan deposit. She came to collect them three days later but found they carried the brand name Gucci. Fearing the label could cause problems with British customs officials, she asked for non-branded slippers instead.
But staff in the Xinwantong clothes market told her to pay the full sum for the counterfeit items or lose her deposit.
A quarrel ensued and a male shop worker hit Jubril-Badmos, who weighs only 55 kg, in the face, she claims.
"I saw stars immediately. He pulled my hair so hard that the hair roots were plucked out," she said, adding that her right arm, face and legs were covered in blood after the attack.
After police arrived, the women say they both were taken away while the shop staff were allowed to remain free. Jubril-Badmos was later accused by Zhanqian police of causing minor injuries to the man and three other women.
The two women say they were detained and interrogated by local police and denied medical treatment until they completed a statement.
They were told to sign dozens of documents in Chinese, including a written confession, which they did not understand. After spending a week in detention centre, Jubril-Badmos was kept in hospital for 25 days as she could not stop vomiting after the assault and her blood pressure soared. Meanwhile, Idowu was kept in a detention centre with 15 people in a cell, sleeping on the floor next to a toilet.
Last month, Idowu's daughters arrived from Britain to try to secure their mother's release. On July 29th, the Liwan district prosecutor refused to prosecute the case against the women, citing inadequate evidence, which finally led to them being released on bail. However, they remain in legal limbo.
Laura Idowu, 20, Mary's youngest daughter and a law student in the UK, said: "It's indescribable and I'm flabbergasted by the Chinese government and its police system. I have come to realise that there's so much corruption in the police force."
Desperately wanting to go home, they say police suggested they could settle the case by paying compensation to the shoe shop. However, they were told they had to pay 207,580 yuan, which included 35,000 yuan for a jade bracelet and 150,000 yuan for a diamond ring.
"It's been unfair … I think they took advantage of us because we're foreigners in a foreign land," Jubril-Badmos said. They say they finally paid 45,000 yuan to settle the case, but police refused to relax bail conditions, citing ongoing investigations.