“They are trapped. They are alone. They are desperate to come home,” David Pressman, the siblings’ New York-based attorney, told USA TODAY. “They are literally breaking down.”
The Lius are subject to a so-called “exit ban,” and they’re not they only ones.
Another American citizen, Huang Wan, says Chinese officials are using a “fake” legal case to prevent her from returning to the United States. An Australian resident, Yuan Xiaoliang, has been barred from leaving China for more than eight months, and her husband, an Australian citizen, has been arrested on suspicion of spying, according to Australia’s foreign minister.
The State Department has warned Americans about China’s growing use of exit bans – stating in a Jan. 3 travel advisory that Chinese authorities have sometimes used exit bans to keep Americans in China for years.
“China uses exit bans coercively,” the State Department cautioned, “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.”