Beautiful SA teacher jailed in China describes experience as ‘traumatic’


A South African teenager who was detained in China says she’ll never leave the country to work overseas again after her month-long detention.

Tristan-Lee Niemand, 19, spoke to News24 about her ordeal shortly after landing at OR Tambo International Airport on Saturday.


Image taken by Simon Sonnekus shows Tristan-Lee Niemand embracing her father, Richard Bridger, after landing at OR Tambo International Airport on Saturday morning

She opened up about how she found herself detained after working as a teacher in Nanjing, China, for three weeks.

Niemand and six other South Africans working as teachers in Nanjing were detained after it emerged that they didn’t have the proper work permits to teach in the country. They only had student visas and they were promised to be provided with work permits by the school that employed them.

On Tuesday, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation confirmed that Niemand and her group in Nanjing would be deported to South Africa on Friday. It also announced that eight South Africans being held in Zhejiang province would be sent home on Sunday.

Niemand vowed to never leave South Africa to work in another country.

“I arrived in China on October 10 and started my teaching job seven days later. Three weeks on the job in China, while we were in the house we were sharing, Chinese police [arrived] knocking on the door,” she said.

“They ordered us to hand over our passports and phones. We were then taken to a police station and questioned for five hours before we were released.”

The following day, police arrived again and told them to go with them to file some papers.

On November 16, they were then taken to a hospital for check-ups and later taken to a detention house where they were detained.

“At that detention house, we were treated like prisoners. They didn’t care about us.”

She said there were five South African nationals, four Thailand citizens, three Russians and one person from an African country in that detention house, which Niemand could not remember.

“Things were different in China. However, I have learned a lot of things in that country although we were not allowed to speak to our parents. We were told so many things we didn’t understand,” she said.

The East London teenager, who was ecstatic about her return back to her native land, was emotional and could not explain her joy when her plane touched down at 07.30 at OR Tambo International Airport.

“The first thing that I am going to do when I arrive home is to have a braai. I missed South African meat and I am going to have lots and lots of it at home,” she said.