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American Blocked From Leaving China for 4 Years Returns Home

FILE - Daniel Hsu, a U.S. citizen, poses for a portrait near the apartment he’s been staying in in Shanghai, China, April 13, 2020.

The U.S. State Department has confirmed to VOA that a U.S. citizen blocked from leaving China for more than four years has returned to the United States. The release came before the virtual meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping late Monday.

"We welcome Daniel Hsu's return to the United States, who was subject to a coercive exit ban," a State Department spokesperson authorized to speak on condition of anonymity confirmed Thursday.

Hsu had not been convicted of any crime in China. He was first barred from returning home to suburban Seattle in August 2017.

In a trip to China in late July, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman raised the cases of American and Canadian citizens detained in the People's Republic of China or under so-called exit bans and reminded PRC officials that people are not bargaining chips.

FILE: Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman at the State Department, Aug. 18, 2021.
FILE: Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman at the State Department, Aug. 18, 2021.

An undisclosed number of U.S. citizens have not been allowed to leave China, Reuters reported. And the U.S. government this year urged its citizens to reconsider traveling there.

Hsu's release comes as the U.S. deported seven Chinese nationals convicted of various crimes. It was unclear how many of those deported also face charges in China. The U.S. denied that the releases were linked, according to Reuters.

According to Reuters, the seven people sent back to China included Xu Guojun, a former president of a Bank of China branch; two people convicted of fraud; two people convicted of photographing a defense installation; and two women who had tried to enter former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in 2019.

"On Friday, November 12, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Air Operations removed seven Chinese nationals convicted of various crimes to the PRC [People's Republic of China], and we welcome the PRC accepting this repatriation flight," the State Department spokesperson said in a statement.

For years, the U.S. has been facing what officials called "roadblocks by the PRC" on issues such as the release of U.S. citizens subject to China's exit ban, and the repatriation of PRC nationals illegally present in the United States. The number of PRC nationals in the U.S. illegally is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

Chinese authorities have been silent on Hsu's case, Reuters said. China's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"In recent months, the PRC has been more willing to engage in working-level channels of communication focused on specific bilateral issues where we have faced long-standing roadblocks and had long-standing concerns," said the State Department spokesperson, while calling the recent development "initial progress."

In preparation for the Biden-Xi virtual meeting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised Hsu's case in a phone call with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last Friday in which they discussed how the two countries can work together in areas where interests align.