Two American siblings banned from leaving China in the past three years have been allowed to return home.
Cynthia and Victor Liu, along with their mother, were charged with “economic crimes” during a visit to China.
The siblings maintained that they were detained in order to lure their father to China to face fraud charges.
The latest move coincides with the high-profile post by Chinese tech leader Meng Wanzhou and two Canadians over the weekend.
On Monday, US Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren said in a statement that Cynthia and Victor Liu were back home “after three difficult years spent in China as Chinese government pawns.”
They added that the siblings’ mother, Sandra Han, was also a US citizen and was “detained in China.” Senators said they were working with the US government to secure his release.
In 2018, all three traveled to China to visit relatives. Ms. Liu was a 27-year-old consultant, and Mr. Liu was a 19-year-old college student at the time.
A few days later, their mother was detained by Chinese authorities and taken to a “black prison”, a secret detention center, according to the children. They found out that they couldn’t leave China either.
At the time, the Chinese Foreign Ministry justified the restrictions by saying that the three men had documents proving they were Chinese citizens and were “suspected of committing economic crimes.”
But the siblings then told The New York Times newspaper that Chinese authorities were using them to lure their father, a former state bank executive, to China to face criminal fraud charges, even though he reportedly severed ties with the family in 2012.
Their father Liu Changming is one of the country’s 100 most wanted fugitives at risk of arrest for suspected corrupt practices, according to a previous report by the state-run China Daily. He fled China in 2007.
Their mother, Ms. Han, is a businesswoman with millions of dollars in real estate, according to the New York Times.
According to U.S. reports, China allowed the Lius to leave on the same weekend that authorities released Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who were arrested in China in 2018 and charged with espionage.
The release of the Canadians came hours after Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou was released from detention in Canada for fraud in the United States.
Critics have long accused China of treating Canadian citizens as political currencies of exchange, seen as so-called “hostage diplomacy.” China has always denied this.
The apparent exchange ended a damaging diplomatic row between Beijing and the West.
When asked by reporters on Monday if this would prompt China to pursue such tactics, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “I think it’s important to note, and to be very clear about it, that there is no connection “.
She said the US Department of Justice made “independent decisions” to strike a deal with Canadian prosecutors, which led to Ms. Meng’s release.