Former Shanghai bookseller’s wife hit with ‘exit ban’ in China

Former Shanghai bookseller’s wife hit with ‘exit ban’ in China

Chinese police prevented a woman from returning to her home in the United States in an attempt to force her husband to return to China, she wrote in a letter he made public.

Key Points: Fang Xie says officials will not allow her to leave China for her home in the US until her husband returns to China. Her case appears to be the latest example of a Chinese “exit ban” Her husband left China after his bookstore was closed for political reasons in 2018

The case appears to be the latest example of Chinese authorities placing an “exit ban” on a person’s family to pressure them to return.

In an appeal to authorities, Fang Xie, 51, wrote that police told her she was “innocent” but that she could not leave until her husband, a former bookseller who left China after running a shop for political reasons are not closed, gives himself up.

She was barred from boarding a plane in Shanghai last August, her husband Miao Yu said, and has not been able to leave China since.

Curfews, which critics have compared to hostage-taking, have affected Chinese citizens and foreigners. The US government includes curfews as a risk in its travel advisory for people going to China.

Mr Yu left China after his shop was closed for political reasons. (AP Photo: Miao Yu)

Mr Yu declined to provide contact information for his wife, citing concerns about her safety. However, he arranged for an Associated Press journalist to join a call between them in which she confirmed that she had written the letter but would not comment further.

The use of prohibitions exceeds international norms

The Shanghai Public Security Bureau did not immediately respond to faxed questions on Monday and a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry said she was not aware of the matter.

But Chinese prosecutors have previously described the practice of using curfews on family members to pressure people to return.

Prosecutors wrote in notes on the case of a former Chinese businessman accused of stealing $6 million and moving to Canada that they had set up a special task force to forcefully push for his survival and his son , daughter, to forbid. -mother-in-law and ex-wife as part of a campaign to “control his family members and shake his emotional support”.

Many countries may ban people accused of crimes or required as witnesses in legal proceedings from leaving. But scholars say China’s use of travel bans exceeds these international norms.

With the closing of the store, the couple will move to the US

Mr Yu ran one of Shanghai’s best-known independent bookstores until 2018, when local authorities prevented his Jifeng Bookstore from renewing its lease, effectively driving it out of business.

At that time, Mr Yu said, a representative of the public security bureau told him his shop hosted “too many sensitive scholars” and “sensitive talk”.

The couple moved to America in 2019, when Mr Yu began a master’s degree in political science, and Ms Xie came as the spouse of a student visa holder.

They settled in Florida to accompany their children who go to school there.

Mr Yu is now studying journalism in Orlando and said he has not remained active in politics since going overseas.

Ms Xie returned to Shanghai in 2022 to care for her sick mother, and Shanghai police told her of the ban two days before she planned to return home in August.

Ms Xie tried to leave anyway, but airport border officials stopped her from leaving, saying she was “suspected of endangering national security,” he said.

But the police told her a different story, she wrote in an appeal to authorities that Mr. Yu published on social media about two weeks ago.

“You clearly told me I was innocent,” she wrote. “Once my husband returns to China for an examination, it can be exchanged for my freedom to leave.”

Mr Yu, who had planned a trip to China to visit family and friends after his wife’s return, canceled his own plans.

Mr Yu canceled his own plans to visit China after his wife’s “travel ban”. (AP Photo: John Raoux) Xi, Putin and pro-democracy protests

The couple believe that the issue is three pseudonymous articles that the police Mr. Yu accused of publishing from the United States, about Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and those involved in China’s 1989 pro-democracy protest movement.

Mr Yu said he was not the author of the articles, but police told Ms Xie they traced them to an IP address associated with Mr Yu.

Mr Yu said his wife can live normally in China and spends most of her time at her home in Shanghai.

The couple talk daily using the Chinese messaging service WeChat. But separation was difficult for them.

In her letter, Ms Xie writes that she is worried about her daughters, who are applying for university this year.

“When adolescents lose their mother’s love, it will lead to lifelong regret.”

‘open wound’

Mr Yu said he felt guilty that his work affected his wife, who did not work at the Jifeng Bookstore.

It feels like having an “open wound,” Yu said in a video interview from their Florida home.

“I don’t know when I will be able to hug my wife and when I will be able to go back to my hometown safe and free.”

Yu said that for the past six months he had been thinking about going back to China in exchange for his wife’s freedom. He did not continue for fear that his children would be left alone if the authorities forbade them both to leave. Their twin daughters turned 18 this month, he added. They also have a 22-year-old son.

Yu published his wife’s letter on WeChat without telling her beforehand, he said. It disappeared several hours after he first posted on WeChat, but caught the attention of Chinese media. A similar post on his Twitter account attracted nearly 170,000 views.

The next day, local police told Xie that her husband’s move would make it more difficult to resolve the situation, he said.

Feng Chongyi, a professor of China Studies, University of Technology Sydney who was barred from leaving China in 2017, said Chinese authorities regularly make such threats, but argued that publicity through media campaigns played a key role in making him and allowed others to leave after exit ban.

Yu said he decided to speak to the media because he hoped to get the US government’s attention ahead of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s early February trip to China. “It’s a very small hope. But now I have no other good hope here,” he said.

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