Published: Sun, October 20, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Two Americans Detained in China

Two Americans Detained in China

Two Americans from an English-teaching business in China have been detained and bailed in the east of the country on suspicion of "organising others to illegally cross the border", the foreign ministry said Thursday.

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

"We are aware of the detention of two US citizens in Jiangsu, China and the charges being brought against them by the provincial government", a US State Department official said on condition of anonymity.

"We take seriously our responsibility to assist U.S. citizens overseas and are monitoring the situation".

A China Horizons Facebook post on October 11 said that the two were "being charged for bogus crimes", and could be detained for "the next few months or years".

China Horizons arranges for its US employees to acquire a Chinese visa to teach English in Chinese schools.

"They are being charged for bogus crimes and their families are working on getting them worldwide lawyers to help them get back home to the states", it added.

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

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It said that Viara Harlan was allowed to make a brief call to her mother in Utah after 48 hours, but not permitted to disclose her location or say anything about what had happened.

"We are no longer able to send teachers to China safely", China Horizons said. The US State Department said that visas have been banned for Chinese officials and leaders responsible for keeping Uygar Muslims in surveillance camps.

The US State Department told Petersen's family that she "is doing okay" but only has extremely limited access to legal help. She can't have contact with anyone "outside of a Consulate Officer who can visit once a month and a Lawyer", it said.

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

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

The case comes as relations have soured between Beijing and Washington over a range of issues, including punitive USA tariffs leveled on Chinese exports over accusations that China cheats on trade and uses theft or coercion to illicitly obtain American technology.

The arrest of Harlan and Petersen took place just days after USA federal prosecutors charged Chinese national Liu Zhongsan in New Jersey with fraudulently obtaining us visas for Chinese government employees.

Geng, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, said at the press conference that he doesn't "see any connection between this case and the current China-U.S. relations".

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