“Desperate To Come Home”: American Siblings Trapped By China’s “Exit Ban” For More Than A Year
Victor and Cynthia Liu, two American siblings, have been trapped in China for more than a year due to a so-called “exit ban” by the Chinese government. They are growing increasingly “desperate and despondent” because Chinese authorities continue to prevent them from leaving the country, according to USA Today.
David Pressman, the siblings’ New York-based attorney said:
“They are trapped. They are alone. They are desperate to come home.”
The situation is similar for another American citizen, Huang Wan, who says that Chinese officials are using a “fake” legal case against her to prevent her from returning to the United States. Australian resident Yuan Xiaoliang has also been prevented from leaving China for more than 8 months after her husband, also an Australian citizen, was arrested on “suspicion of spying”.
The U.S. State Department continues to warn about China’s use of “exit bans”, stating that the Chinese government has used them in the past to keep Americans in China for years.
In a January 2019 statement, the State Department said: “China uses exit bans coercively to compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations, to lure individuals back to China from abroad, and to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.”
Thomas Kellogg, executive director of the Center for Asian Law at Georgetown University Law Center, said:
“China has long used exit bans to stop its own citizens from leaving the country, particularly human-rights activists or other dissidents. But authorities are increasingly using the tactic to harass Americans and other foreign nationals, particularly those of Chinese descent.“
He continued: “We don’t have firm numbers in terms of exactly how many people, on either the Chinese side or the international side, have been subjected to exit bans … but we know that the number is quite large.”
He estimates that “thousands” of Chinese citizens have been subject to exit bans in recent years.
The trade war with the United States isn’t helping, nor are President Xi Jinping’s efforts to consolidate power by purging opponents by claiming “corruption”, repressing Muslims and doing away with term limits.
Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based foreign policy think tank said: “It’s a very ominous way of governing. The use of exit bans is one element of it.”
The State Department says it can’t disclose the total number of Americans being held by exit bans, but it did say that Chinese authorities have “broad authority” to prevent U.S. citizens from leaving China.
A State Department official said: “U.S. officials, including the Secretary of State, regularly raise the issue of exit bans with the Chinese government and will continue to do so until we see a transparent and fair process.”
But the Liu siblings are instead being used as “a crude form of human bait” to lure their estranged father, Liu Changming, back to China. Liu has been accused by the Chinese government of being involved in a $1.4 billion fraud and he fled China in 2007. He is no longer in touch with his family.
Cynthia Liu said in a video she recorded in May 2019: “This man abandoned my family many years ago. We are not in touch with him, nor do we have any way of contacting him.”
The Liu siblings traveled to China in June 2018 with their mother to visit an elderly relative. Victor Liu was planning on starting his sophomore year at Georgetown and Cynthia was set to return to her consulting job in New York. But the sibling’s mother, Sandra Han, was detained during the trip and her children were barred from returning to the U.S.
The siblings are allowed to move around China, but can’t leave the country.
Huang Wan’s case is similar in nature, Pressman said: “She hasn’t been accused of any crime. She seems to have been subject to an exit ban merely because of her association with political figures who have been disgraced and purged.”
Huang’s husband and her father-in-law were charged and convicted in corruption cases. Huang was detained and held for several years after being placed on probation. She was supposed to be set free this summer, but instead she fell victim to an exit ban.
U.S. based China Change, a group that provides information on human rights in China, said: “On June 6, Ms. Huang, an American citizen since 1998, completed her probation and was finally free. But just days before her long-awaited freedom, a civil case involving a lease dispute was brought against her which she described to her lawyer Chen Jiangang as ‘fictitious’ and designed to prevent her from leaving China.”
Feng Chongyi, an associate professor of China Studies at the University of Technology in Australia, concluded: “China’s security forces have used exit bans more and more frequently because this punishment can apply to a very large number of people with little administrative costs.”
He said of his own detention in China in 2017: “I was extremely lucky to receive overwhelming international media campaign and immediate high level intervention from governments of Australia and the US.”
Tue, 09/17/2019 – 19:25