A British woman of Nigerian descent, Mary Aderonke Idowu, 59, and her friend, Esther Jubril-Badmos, 48, were locked up in a Chinese prison for five weeks following a row with a shopkeeper over a fake pair of shoes.
According to the Evening Standard, the two women are stranded in China with worsening health, their families have revealed. Mrs Idowu, who is a grandmother-of-five from Hackney, was travelling with her friend Mrs Jubril-Badmos, a mother-of-five from Enfield. They were supposed to return from Guangzhou in southern China in June after a week away.
Their families have complained that they are stuck in a Chinese hotel and the authorities are refusing to let them leave the country as their visas expired during their imprisonment.
Mrs Idowu was advising Mrs Jubril-Badmos, who is a jewellery and clothing importer, on styles when trouble started during a visit to a supplier.
The row started over the authenticity of a pair of shoes and Mrs Jubril-Badmos demanded her £50 deposit back.
The families said that during the confrontation Mrs Jubril-Badmos was struck hard and “dragged out of the shop by her hair” and she used a pair of shoes to defend herself.
The police were called and arrested the women. Mrs Idowu’s daughter, Sarah Murray, 34, said: “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.” In a note from her cell, Mrs Idowu told her family: “This is hell, I am not doing well.”
The two women were eventually released at the end of last month and have since been stranded in a hotel.
They are being helped by the British consulate but the authorities have not allowed them an exit visa because they outstayed their original permit.
Ms Jubril-Badmos paid compensation to the wholesaler and police discontinued the case but there remains confusion over the pair’s legal standing.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said the Government was awaiting the outcome of the Chinese investigation and that it was “a matter for them”.