Two U.S. citizens detained, charged with ‘illegal’ activity in China

Two U.S. citizens detained, charged with ‘illegal’ activity in China”

Two American citizens have been detained in China on "bogus" charges of illegally moving people across country borders - and they could end up imprisoned there "for the next few months or years", a USA -based educational organization is warning.

Jacob Harlan, the founder of the company and a father of five, and Alyssa Petersen, the company's associate director, were arrested in Jiangsu province last month, their Idaho-based company China Horizons said on its Facebook page.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it was "aware of the detention of two U.S. citizens in China and the charges being brought against them by the provincial government".

"Compulsory measures of criminal detention and release on bail were taken against" the two US nationals, he said.

"Because of increasing political and economic problems between the U.S. and China, we are no longer able to send teachers to China safely", said the company in a social media post, adding that it planned to close the business by the end of October.

China Horizons said on Facebook last week that the pair "are being charged for bogus crimes and their families are working on getting them global lawyers to help them get back home to the States".

According to the GoFundMe pages, set up by family friend Sarah Jackson, on October 10 and 11, police took Harlan and his 8-year-old daughter, Viara, from the hotel where they were staying in Weifang City of Shandong Province on September 28.

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Jacob's eight-year-old daughter was also with him when police detained him on September 28.

After 48 hours, authorities allowed Viara to call her mom in Utah but not tell her what happened or their specific location.

Petersen's page says she was held incommunicado for two weeks after being taken away by police and was located only after her family went to the State Department for assistance. "Unfortunately, because of increasing political and economic problems between the USA and China, we are no longer able to send teachers to china safely", the post said. She wakes up when told, she goes to sleep when told. "She spends her day in a Jail Cell or walking in a circle counting steps", says the webpage, created a week ago. She has had no contact with anyone apart from a consular officer, who is allowed to see her only once a month, they said. The US State Department said that visas have been banned for Chinese officials and leaders responsible for keeping Uygar Muslims in surveillance camps.

Contacted by AFP, Zhenjiang police said they had no immediate comment.

Two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, have been detained in China since December.

They have also tangled over USA criticism of Chinese human rights abuses, the handling of increasingly violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong and China's assertion of its claims to virtually the entire South China Sea.

Last March, the charge was used to sentence Reverend John Sanqiang Cao, a U.S. permanent resident based in North Carolina, to seven years in prison.

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