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BEIJING – Two American siblings have returned home after China lifted an exit ban following Canada’s release of a top Chinese tech executive who was wanted in the United States for fraud.

The State Department said Cynthia and Victor Liu returned to the United States on Sunday after consular staff in Shanghai helped facilitate their departure.

“We welcome Cynthia and Victor Liu’s return to the United States on Sunday,” the department said in an undated statement.

Two Canadians detained in China were also allowed to leave after Canada released Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on Friday.

According to reports, the Liu siblings traveled to China with their mother, Han Tong, in mid-2018 to visit a sick relative, but were subsequently barred from leaving the country with the apparent aim of doing so. pressure on their father Liu Changming to come back. in China, where he is wanted for money laundering. Han was detained after arriving in China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying defended the exit bans as legal and necessary for the investigation of their parents’ cases.

“Chinese police, in order to find out the truth, have restricted their exit from China,” Hua said at a daily briefing on Tuesday.

“In light of the progress of the investigation, the police lifted the restrictions in September 2021 in accordance with the law,” Hua said. “The handling of cases is legal and constitutes an independent judicial process.”

No information was immediately available on the progress of the investigation or on the fate of Han Tong and Liu Changming.

The US State Department statement said Washington would oppose the use of “coercive exit bans against people who are not themselves accused of crimes” and would continue to “defend the name of all. American citizens in (China) subjected to arbitrary detentions and coercive exit bans ”. “

To justify the exit ban, Hua cited Chinese administration laws which state that foreigners can be prevented from leaving if they are “sentenced to criminal penalties, the execution of which is not completed, or suspects or defendants in criminal cases, except those sentenced and transferred under relevant agreements between China and foreign countries. ”

It was not clear if the Lius met any of these conditions.

US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman – the most senior US official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office – raised the issue of exit bans during talks with Chinese officials in July.

“I also took the opportunity to lobby for the release of US and Canadian citizens who are arbitrarily detained or banned from leaving,” Sherman said in a statement. interview.

“People are not currencies,” she added.

In an apparent prisoner swap, two Canadians detained in China were also allowed to leave after the release of Huawei leader Meng. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor were arrested days after Meng’s arrest and charged with endangering China’s national security, with Spavor sentenced to 11 years in prison.

While Beijing has denied a link between the cases, many countries have called China’s action a “hostage policy.” The couple were isolated in facilities with lights on 24 hours a day, while Meng remained in one of her luxurious Vancouver mansions.

China has long demanded the unconditional release of Meng, also the daughter of the founder of Huawei, denouncing her detention as a form of personal persecution aimed at thwarting China’s rise as a global technological power.

Meng, 49, made a deal with federal prosecutors that asked for the fraud charges against her to be quashed next year and allowed her to return to China immediately. As part of the deal, known as the deferred prosecution agreement, she accepted responsibility for distorting the company’s business relationship in Iran.

As part of the deal with Meng, which was leaked in federal court in Brooklyn, the Justice Department agreed to dismiss fraud charges against her in December 2022 – exactly four years after her arrest – on condition that it complies with certain conditions, including not contesting any of the government’s factual allegations. The Justice Department also agreed to drop her request for Meng’s extradition to the United States, which she had vigorously contested, ending a process that prosecutors say could have persisted for months. .

White House Biden, meanwhile, has maintained a hard line on Huawei, the world’s largest supplier of communications equipment, and other Chinese companies whose technology is considered to pose security risks. national.

Huawei has repeatedly denied the US government’s claims and security concerns regarding its products.

Chinese authorities also appeared to reject Meng’s admission of responsibility, saying she pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.

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