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china's detention of 2 americans heightens american unease in china

Posted by bassolino at 2020-02-29
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China / USA

Time of publication: 22 / 10 / 2019 - 13:56

Authorities in southern China have detained two US employees of an Idaho based English language teaching company in the latest sign of the Chinese government's increasing scrutiny of foreigners working and travelling in China. According to the New York Times, the incident has heightened American unease in China. In January, the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning against China, warning Americans, especially those with dual citizenship, that if they go to China, they may be banned from leaving the country.

According to the New York Times, the detention of two Americans in China has heightened American unease in China. Authorities in southern China have detained two US employees of an Idaho based English language teaching company in the latest sign of the Chinese government's increasing scrutiny of foreigners working and travelling in China. The two Americans, Jacob Harlan and Alyssa Petersen, were detained at the end of last month and are currently in Zhenjiang City, Jiangsu Province, according to a website built by relatives and friends on the crowdfunding platform gofundme.

Haran is the father of five and the owner of China horizons. According to the company's website, he founded the company in 2004 and arranged for Americans to teach English in China. The company's website also shows that Peterson is the company's assistant director, who has visited China many times in the past eight years and often lives there.

Haran and his eight year old daughter were detained at a hotel in the eastern city of Weifang on September 28, according to the report's gofundme page. Police confiscated his cell phone and computer, detained them for about 48 hours before allowing his daughter to make a brief phone call, and later flew back to the United States with the company of a friend of their family.

Mr. Peterson's father, Clark Petersen, told East Idaho news that they contacted the State Department about a week after receiving information from their daughter. She was later told that her daughter had been detained by the Chinese authorities.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry, confirmed at a regular press conference Thursday that Haran and Peterson had been arrested on suspicion of organizing others to illegally cross the border, the report said. China's criminal law punishes the crime with a minimum of two years' imprisonment and a fine.

Clark Peterson said his daughter was allowed to meet with U.S. consulate officials last week, the 40 minute meeting under the close supervision of Chinese authorities, the New York Times reported, citing the East Idaho news. He and his family have not been able to contact Alisha directly.

It is not clear when and where the trial of Haran and Peterson will take place. A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said U.S. officials were aware of their detention and were "closely following developments.".

Zhenjiang police did not respond to repeated requests for comment Thursday, the report said.

According to the New York Times, the detention came at a time of heightened tensions between China and the United States over trade and other issues, but Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Thursday he did not see "any connection" between the two. Nonetheless, the detentions could exacerbate growing unease among Americans traveling and working in China.

In June, an executive at Koch industries was detained in southern China and allowed to leave China after several days of questioning. Last month, a FedEx pilot was detained on charges of smuggling weapons. Although he was released on bail soon, he was still under investigation and was not allowed to leave China.

What's more disturbing, the report said, is that two Canadians were arrested for espionage in 2018, apparently in retaliation for Canada's arrest of an important Huawei executive.

The New York Times pointed out that in January, the State Department issued a travel warning against China, warning Americans, especially those with dual nationality of China and the United States, that if they go to China, they may be banned from leaving the country.

Reports of foreign teachers working in China with non-conforming visas are quite common. According to official estimates, although there were about 400000 foreign citizens working in China's education industry in 2017, only one third of them had valid work permits. Accordingly, some schools have in some cases exploited this loophole by withholding wages.

But with the ruling Communist Party of China emphasizing more standardized patriotism education, the Chinese people's extreme enthusiasm for learning English has been surpassed by more and more so-called foreign concerns about the impact of Chinese schools, which reflects the increasingly complex, sometimes spear shield, love hate relationship between China and the United States.

As police inspections of non Chinese teachers become more common, some foreign teachers say there is growing suspicion in schools. Many have been deported. Some people are not so lucky. In July, 16 foreign teachers and students in Xuzhou, Eastern China, were arrested on drug charges. According to the British Embassy in Beijing, at least four of them are British teachers.

After Haran and Peterson were detained at the end of last month, China horizons announced on its Facebook page that the company would close at the end of this month, the New York Times reported.