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China holds US citizens ‘hostage’ and bans them from leaving

Xi Jinping speaks to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 28, 2017. (Ma Zhancheng/Xinhua/Zuma Press/TNS)
June 19, 2018

China has been increasingly imposing exit bans that prevent U.S. citizens from leaving its country, essentially holding them “hostage.”

More than two dozen Americans in the last two years have been barred from leaving China to return home.

Most of those who have been impacted are Americans of Chinese ethnicity, and the exit bans used to keep them in the country are usually used as a form of leverage to coerce the victim’s family members to cooperate with Chinese investigators.

The recipients of the controversial exit bans are unaware that they have been targeted until they arrive at the airport.

The growing number of exit bans are the result of “Operation Fox Hunt,” which is an initiative that was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping to fight corruption.

Most of those who are targeted by the exit bans are related to someone who has allegedly committed economic crimes.

Xi doesn’t want Chinese citizens to think that that they can avoid being held accountable for their crimes by fleeing to the United States.

Currently, the United States does not have an extradition treaty in place with China, and it rarely cooperates with requests to repatriate fugitives.

Due to the lack of cooperation, the People’s Republic has sent undercover agents to the U.S. to coerce wanted individuals to return to China, which is in violation of U.S. visa laws.

Exit bans are a “pretty new tool in the Chinese toolbox. That individual might be treated as a material witness, or that individual might be in effect being held as a hostage to get the people back,” human rights expert John Kamm said.

Efforts have been made by the Trump Administration to put an end to the Chinese exit bans.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently pushed for the removal of exit bans on three U.S. citizens who wanted to return home from China.

Human rights experts claim that the Chinese fugitives pose no danger by residing in the U.S. because they have committed non-violent crimes. Also, many of the fugitives risk facing torture if they were to be extradited to China.

The U.S. isn’t overly motivated to extradite Chinese fugitives because of China’s reluctance to accept deportations.

The Trump Administration wants to deport Chinese citizens who enter the U.S. illegally, but it isn’t receiving the necessary cooperation from China. The lack of support from Beijing to accept the deportees has resulted in a large population of Chinese refugees on American soil.

A recent joint statement from the U.S. and China alludes to some changes in extradition policies in the future.

“Both sides will continue to cooperate to prevent each country from becoming a safe haven for fugitives and will identify viable fugitive cases for cooperation. Both sides commit to take actions involving fugitives only on the basis of respect for each other’s sovereignty and laws,” the statement said.