Genghis Khan China tourists
China: Detained tourists to be deported for watching Genghis Khan documentary creative commons

China is to deport all nine tourists, including three Britons, who were detained by authorities for reportedly watching a documentary on Genghis Khan inside their hotel rooms.

Chinese officials mistook the documentary for "propaganda" material leading to confusion. The incident eventually sparked an international outcry.

Earlier, 20 tourists were arrested in China after a visit to the Genghis Khan mausoleum in Ordos, Inner Mongolia. Ten of them are South Africans, nine Britons and one an Indian.

A British-based spokesperson for the couple Hoosain Jacobs and Tahira - who hold South African and British nationalities - said there has been a misunderstanding.

In a statement, the spokesperson said: "They watched a documentary on Genghis Khan to further their understanding of the region they were in at that time, and this may have mistakenly been deemed as 'propaganda' material... It can only be assumed that junior officials who made the initial arrest in Inner Mongolia made a mistake, due to perhaps their unfamiliarity of the English language. The Jacobs family wish to thank the senior Chinese authorities in Beijing for the swift manner in which they have resolved this unfortunate misunderstanding."

Jacobs, 74, and Tahira, 68 were part of the group which was on a 47-day historical tour of China. Eleven of the group have already been deported while the remaining tourists are to be sent in the coming days.

All 20 tourists were kept in detention for nearly a week and were abruptly released without any explanation or charge.

Zhang Xi, a local official in Ordos, told reporters previously: "These people are suspected of watching and spreading violent terrorist videos."

It is still unclear why the Chinese authorities would crackdown on a documentary on Genghis Khan but the Communist regime in Beijing has been tightening the screws on rights activists and critics in recent months.