One of seven Chinese nationals accused of human trafficking and forced labour nabbed at OR Tambo Airport trying to escape
25 February 2021

One of seven Chinese nationals arrested in 2019 for human trafficking and violation of South Africa’s labour laws was last night nabbed at the OR Tambo International Airport seemingly trying to escape.  

After her arrest yesterday Zhang Zhilian, was taken to Johannesburg Central prison. She was due to appear today in court for the alleged escape plot. It has since emerged that she applied for another passport in November 2020.

Zhilian is one of the seven Chinese nationals arrested for alleged human trafficking and violation of South Africa’s labour laws. Her co-accused are: Kevin Tsao Shu-Uei, Chen Hui, Qin Li, Jiaqing Zhou, Ma Biao, and Dai Junying.

The trial proper of the seven accused is expected to start in April.

The matter of the Chinese nationals was transferred in September 2020 to the High Court for trial. In June 2020, the court had granted all the accused bail with strict conditions after a long-drawn hearing. This followed the denial of bail on March 20, 2020.

When eventually granted, their bails ranged from a minimum of R30 000 to R70 000, and they were subjected to strict movement including regularly reporting to the police station.

The accused are facing schedule six offences. They are set to be charged with 160 counts of crime. These relate to contravention of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA), Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act, Unemployment Insurance Act, Unemployment Contributions Act, Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, kidnapping, contravention of Immigration Act, knowingly employing illegal foreigners, human trafficking, kidnapping, pointing a firearm, debt bondage, benefitting from the services of a victim of trafficking, conduct that facilitates trafficking, illegally assisting person(s) to remain in South Africa, knowingly employing illegal foreigners, and failure to comply with duties of an employer.

The Department of Employment and Labour is involved in the matter to press for the prosecution of the accused for violating South Africa’s labour laws.  

The accused - four males and three females - were arrested for allegedly running an illegal enterprise called Beautiful City Pty Ltd located at Village Deep in Johannesburg in in a joint operation by the department’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) in partnership with the South African Police Services (SAPS), Department of Home Affairs and the police’s Hawks Unit following a tip-off.  During the joint blitz 91 Malawian nationals – 37 of them children – were found in the factory and it emerged that had been smuggled in containers by a middleman known as "the transporter". He is still on the run.

Gauteng Provincial Chief Inspector, Advocate Michael Msiza said the department was disappointed to learn of such an escape attempt.

"We feel vindicated in our opposition to the granting of the bail as we suspected that the accused were a flight risk. We would like to commend the vigilant law enforcement authorities for the job well done," said Msiza who also expressed shock that the accused tried to escape on a passport allegedly issued by the Chinese Embassy on 25 November 2020.


Media enquiries:


Musa Zondi

Acting Departmental Spokesperson

067 426 4190


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 Issued by: Department of Employment and Labour