June 6, 2013 update:
Hu Zhicheng has been permitted to depart China, reports Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times.
This may be a good will gesture by President Xi Jinping just in advance of his summit with President Barack Obama in California.
Hu, a Chinese-born inventor in the area of auto emissions technology, was trained at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He head been unable to leave China since 2008. Chinese border agents claimed he was a wanted man, even though he wasn’t convicted of any crime and no charges were pending against him. The U.S. State Department had argued that prohibiting Hu’s departure was a violation of international law.
Nov. 28, 2011 story:
The New York Times’ Andrew Jacobs reported on Nov. 26, 2011, about a U.S. engineer uanble to leave China: Engineer’s Return to China Leads to Jail and Limbo.
* Hu Zhicheng is a naturalized U.S. citizen who decided to return to his native China in 2004 to designing catalytic converters for the nation’s booming automotive industry.
* Now it seems he cannot leave. The last three times he tried to board an airplane and return to his family in Los Angeles, Mr. Hu, was turned away by Chinese border agents who claimed that he was a wanted man. But each time he or his lawyer contacted the authorities, however, they were told there were no such restrictions.
* In 2008 after a former business associate accused him of commercial theft. But since his release 19 months ago, Mr. Hu’s life has been in limbo
* His daughter, a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, began a petition campaign that has garnered more than 50,000 signatures.
* Richard Buangan, a spokesman for the United States Embassy in Beijing, said that American diplomats had had little success in pressing his case with Chinese officials. “No authority has been cooperative with our request for information on the restrictions that block his departure from China,” he said.
* Mr. Hu’s predicament highlights the potential perils of doing business in China, where commercial disputes can easily become criminal matters, especially when the politically well-connected use the country’s malleable legal system to bludgeon rivals.