British women detained in China after shoe shop row

CHINA - Two British women who visited China for a shopping holiday found themselves in jail after a dispute with staff at a shoe shop.

Despite paying 45,000 yuan (S$9,400) to settle the case, they are unable to leave the country.

Londoners Mary Idowu, 59, and Esther Jubril-Badmos, 48, travelled to Guangzhou on June 16 for shopping and planned to stay for a week, reported South China Morning Post.

But after a dispute over a 500 yuan deposit, the two women were detained by police in Zhanqian, Liwan district, on June 21 for "provocation and disturbance of peace".

Mrs Jubril-Badmos said she ordered 15 pairs of slippers at 150 yuan each and put down a 500 yuan deposit. She went 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 employees of the Xinwantong clothes market told her to pay the full sum or lose her deposit.

There was a quarrel and Mrs Jubril-Badmos claimed a male shop worker hit her in the face.

The police arrested the women.

Mrs Idowu's daughter, Ms Sarah Murray, 34, told the London Evening Standard: "They were taken to the police station, questioned for 24 hours and then transferred to a detention centre, where they were held for 38 days without being charged."

The two women said they were interrogated by local police and denied medical treatment until they completed a statement.

Signed documents

They were told to sign dozens of documents in Chinese, including a written confession, which they did not understand.

The women's visas expired during their 38-day detention, leaving them stranded in China.

Despite paying 45,000 yuan to settle the case, they said 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.

A British Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said the government was awaiting the outcome of the Chinese investigation and that it was "a matter for them".

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