Man who became bargaining chip in US-China talks finally home after 4 long years


Daniel Hsu, a U.S. citizen, fought for 4 years to flee China

The Seattle resident was barred from leaving regardless of having dedicated no crime, a pawn in a geopolitical sport between two big superpowers. 

Then earlier this month, simply 4 days earlier than a digital assembly between President Biden and Chinese language chief Xi Jinping, Hsu was informed to organize to go house. He had lower than 48 hours. 


U.S. citizen Daniel Hsu poses for a portrait close to his condo in Shanghai, China, April 13, 2020. 
(AP Photograph, File)

“It was a complete rush,” he informed The Related Press in a phone interview from his house in Seattle. 

As he raced to go to his grandmother, pack his issues and journey to Guangzhou, Hsu knew nothing of the horse-trading occurring between China and the U.S. in the build-up to the three-plus hour video meeting between Biden and Xi on Nov. 15. 

Each nations gave the impression to be making an attempt to dial again tensions of their more and more fractious relationship, and Hsu had develop into a bargaining chip. He may return to Seattle, and 7 Chinese language nationals who had been convicted of crimes within the U.S. can be despatched again to China. 

China’s potential to make offers by successfully taking folks like Hsu hostage has raised issues that Beijing could really feel emboldened to double down on the observe, which has angered not solely the U.S. but additionally Canada, Australia and numerous European nations who say their residents have additionally confronted arbitrary detention in China. 

“There’s no deterrent imposed on Beijing to doing it once more,” stated Sophie Richardson, China Director at Human Rights Watch. “The issue is in the event you took the actually principled highway, lots of people would nonetheless be sitting in arbitrary detention in China.” 

A U.S. official who was educated concerning the administration’s talks with Beijing concerning Hsu informed AP that Hsu was not a “deliverable” for the Biden-Xi assembly and that what seemed to some like a prisoner change was not really a prisoner change, however reasonably the product of lengthy – and persevering with – efforts to get Beijing to reside as much as its worldwide obligations. The official wasn’t licensed to remark publicly and spoke on the situation of anonymity. 

“The PRC ought to by no means have subjected U.S. residents to coercive exit bans. The PRC had been failing to fulfill its worldwide obligations to take again their nationals who’ve been ordered eliminated,” the official stated, utilizing the acronym for the Individuals’s Republic of China. “There are extra People topic to exit bans and arbitrary detentions within the PRC, and we are going to proceed to work to safe their launch.” 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian takes a question at the daily media briefing in Beijing on April 8, 2020. The spokesman said he was not sure of the details of Hsu's case though he reiterated that the country handled matters according to set rules.

Chinese language International Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian takes a query on the each day media briefing in Beijing on April 8, 2020. The spokesman stated he was undecided of the main points of Hsu’s case although he reiterated that the nation dealt with issues in line with set guidelines.
(GREG BAKER/AFP by way of Getty Pictures)

In Beijing, Chinese language International Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian stated he wasn’t clear on the main points of Hsu’s case however that China dealt with such issues in line with established guidelines. 

“I want to emphasize that each one are equal underneath the legislation and the related Chinese language organs deal with such issues in accordance with the legislation and laws,” Zhao stated at a each day briefing on Wednesday. “Within the finishing up of such duties, there isn’t any tolerance for interference, slander or distortion.” 

Hsu informed the AP that he was successfully held hostage by Chinese language authorities in search of to persuade his father to return to China and face justice for allegedly embezzling roughly $63,000 over 20 years in the past, when he was chairman of a authorities actual property firm. Hsu’s father has stated he’s harmless and the goal of a political vendetta. 

From August 2017 till February 2018, Hsu was held in solitary confinement in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province. The partitions in his beige room had been lined in rubber, Hsu informed the AP in a 2020 interview. The desk was wrapped in tender, grey leather-based. White blinds lined two barred home windows. There have been no sharp edges. 

5 surveillance cameras recorded his actions, and two guards saved fixed, silent watch. They adopted Hsu to the bathe and stood beside him at the bathroom. 

Lights blazed by the evening. If he rolled over on his mattress, guards woke him and made him flip his face towards a surveillance digicam that recorded him as he slept. 

When he was launched from the so-called training heart, he was topic to an exit ban and barred from leaving China. Beneath Chinese language legislation, authorities have broad discretion to dam each Chinese language residents and overseas nationals from leaving the nation. The U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.Ok. have issued advisories warning their residents they are often prevented from leaving China arbitrarily, even over disputes they might not be instantly concerned in. 

Hsu’s is just not the primary case of hostage diplomacy involving China. 

In September, an settlement was reached to permit Meng Wanzhou, a senior government at Chinese language know-how big Huawei, to return house from Canada after a three-year diplomatic standoff. Meng had confronted a U.S. extradition request on expenses of fraud for allegedly misrepresenting the corporate’s enterprise dealings with Iran. 

Inside hours of Meng’s launch, Beijing freed two Canadians who had been detained in China on nationwide safety expenses shortly after Meng’s arrest in Canada. China’s International Ministry stated on the time the Canadians had been launched for well being causes and downplayed any reference to Meng’s case. Canada has lengthy maintained that the boys are harmless. 

The following day, two American siblings who — like Hsu — had been blocked from leaving China for years in an obvious effort to coerce their father to return to China, returned to the US. 

Hsu’s luck didn’t change till the weeks main as much as the November video convention. Hsu stated he bought a name from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing 4 days earlier than Xi and Biden spoke, on the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 11. He was instructed to get to Guangzhou, a southern Chinese language megacity about 900 miles from his condo in Shanghai, in time for a constitution flight house early that Sunday morning. 

He went to see his 103-year-old grandmother, who lives in Shanghai. She cried when he informed her he was leaving. “I may inform she was questioning if she’d see me once more,” he stated. 

Hsu had by no means informed her about his exit ban as a result of he apprehensive for her well being. He by no means informed her about his six months in solitary confinement. Or the truth that his spouse – additionally harmless of any crime – had additionally been blocked from leaving China till final yr, for causes that had been by no means clear to them. As a consequence, their teenage daughter was successfully orphaned for almost three years, dwelling on her personal of their large, empty home in Seattle. 

Sunday morning, Nov. 14, dawned in Guangzhou with a uncommon and wonderful blue sky, and the sunshine appeared to match Hsu’s temper. On the airport, he walked throughout the tarmac towards a ready Gulfstream 5 jet – the airplane that will lastly carry him house. 

Hsu stated he noticed seven folks disembark, although he didn’t know who they had been. 

Solely one in all them — Xu Guojun, a former Chinese language financial institution government, now bald and sporting dishevelled camouflage pants — was in handcuffs. A pair of police clad in hooded white hazmat fits, with goggles, facemasks, blue gloves and blue booties escorted him off the airplane. 

Xu had fled China in 2001 after being accused of embezzling a whole lot of thousands and thousands of {dollars}. China’s Central Fee for Self-discipline Inspection put out a press release trumpeting Xu’s return to the motherland as a “main achievement” in China’s world anti-corruption battle, which has intensified underneath Xi Jinping. 

A federal court docket in Las Vegas sentenced the previous Financial institution of China supervisor on conspiracy expenses in 2009 and ordered him and his co-conspirators to pay $482 million in restitution. He spent almost 13 years in U.S. jail, in line with the Division of Homeland Safety. 

Two of the opposite returnees – Zhang Yujing and Lu Jing – tried to enter Mar-a-Lago in 2019. Zhang was sentenced to eight months for trespassing and mendacity to federal brokers, whereas Lu was sentenced to 59 days for resisting arrest, in line with DHS. Two others – Wang Yuhao and Zhang Jielun – had been convicted of illegally photographing a naval air station in Key West, Fla., in 2020. The ultimate pair – Solar Yong and Tang Junliang – had been convicted of economic crimes in Utah, in line with DHS and Justice Division information. 

After which it was Hsu’s flip. He walked up ten boarding stairs onto the airplane. He had a single suitcase and one stick with it. 

U.S. citizen Daniel Hsu poses for a portrait in an apartment in Shanghai, China, on April 13, 2020.  

U.S. citizen Daniel Hsu poses for a portrait in an condo in Shanghai, China, on April 13, 2020.  
(AP Photograph, File)

“I felt like I used to be already on U.S. soil. That was actually a reduction,” Hsu stated. “I took a deep breath after I sat down in my chair.” 

He stated he spent the six-hour flight from Guangzhou to Guam studying “Dune” in Mandarin, taking part in video video games and chatting with a half dozen Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers additionally on the airplane. Then there was a three-hour layover in Guam and a seven-hour flight to Honolulu. He stated he spent the 24-hour layover in Hawaii mainly sleeping in his resort room, then it was again on the jet for a five-and-a-half-hour flight to Phoenix. 

In Phoenix, he switched to a industrial flight, which was delayed by almost three hours. As Biden and Xi spoke of Taiwan, commerce, local weather change and the mutual have to keep away from battle, Hsu paced the Phoenix airport, exhausted and aimless. “I attempted to learn a e-book or learn one thing on my cellphone, I simply can’t,” Hsu stated. “I couldn’t give attention to something. I couldn’t wait to see my spouse.” 

Lastly, at almost 10 p.m. native time, Hsu touched down at Seattle-Tacoma Worldwide Airport. A consultant from the Workplace of the Particular Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs was ready for him. So was his spouse, Jodie Chen. 

“I simply held her and gave her a hug,” Hsu stated. “A really large one, very tight.” 

“Welcome house,” Chen stated. 

Thanksgiving this yr guarantees to be an enormous enchancment on the vacation 4 years in the past, which Hsu stated he celebrated in solitary confinement in Hefei. He stated he managed to persuade his minders there to convey him a particular meal of Kentucky Fried Rooster. 

Hsu stated he’s grateful to everybody who labored behind the scenes to convey him house. He stated he’s blissful to be in a free nation however thinks usually about his kin. “I hope all is properly with my household in China,” he stated. 


His closing departure was so sudden, Hsu stated he hasn’t had time to consider what comes subsequent, past making an attempt to recapture time together with his household and get again to the life and the liberty that he misplaced. 

“I’m drained. Simply drained,” he stated. “I haven’t seen my mother and father for 4 years. I haven’t seen my spouse for a yr and a half. Now we have quite a lot of issues to speak about.” 

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