Two American siblings returned home this weekend from China, more than three years after an “exit ban” barred them from leaving the country.
A US official confirmed the lifting of the ban and the homecoming of Cynthia Liu, a consultant at McKinsey & Company and Victor Liu, a Georgetown University student.
Despite never facing any criminal charges, the two siblings came under the ambit of an “exit ban” in China, something the US has in the past strongly opposed and that has been seen as an arm-twisting tactic used by the country.
In this case, Liu Changming, the father of the siblings and a former Chinese bank official, faces fraud charges in China.
Mr and Ms Liu went to China in 2018 to visit their grandfather, but were detained shortly after, in an apparent attempt to coerce their father to turn himself in, according to a report by The New York Times.
Mr Liu’s wife and the siblings’ mother Sandra Han continues to be detained in China on criminal grounds.
The lifting of the ban has been seen as an indication of thawing relations between the US and China, who share a strained relationship.
The duration of the ban on Mr and Ms Liu paralleled Ms Meng’s stay in Canada, as the US sought her extradition over a fraud case.
Ms Meng’s return to China, along with the seemingly sudden release of the siblings and two other Canadian nationals from China, has been perceived as a “prisoner swap” between the two superpowers.
The White House, however, has denied such suggestions. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters there was “no link” between the two cases. The issue of releasing the two had come up during a call between US president Joe Biden and Chinese premier Xi Jinping on 9 September.
Ms Meng’s case was decided independently, said the US Justice Department, which had reached an agreement clearing the way for the Huawei executive to leave for her home country.
Similarly, Beijing has also denied any link between the releases of the US, Chinese and Canadian nationals.
Welcoming the Liu siblings’ return to the US, a state department official said consular staff in Shanghai helped aid the exit process.
“We will continue to advocate on behalf of all American citizens in the PRC subject to arbitrary detention and coercive exit bans,” the official said.