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Exit Ban for Bookseller’s Wife
News Bytes 01/31/2023 9 Comments

Chinese police kept Fang Xie from boarding a plane in Shanghai last August. She hasn’t been able to return home to Florida since. Her husband hopes to capture the U.S. government’s attention ahead of a February state department trip to China.

Fang Xie’s husband, Miao Yu, was a bookseller in Shanghai. He left China after police shut down his store for political reasons. At that time, Yu says a representative of the public security bureau told him his shop had hosted “too many sensitive scholars” and “sensitive talks.”

Now police want him back. Chinese police tell Xie that she is “innocent” but cannot leave until her husband gives himself up.

Critics have described exit bans for family members as hostage-taking. In one case, Chinese prosecutors’ notes say police set up a task force to “vigorously squeeze [a businessman’s] survival.” They placed exit bans on his son, daughter-in-law, and ex-wife to “control his relatives and shake his emotional support.”

Many countries can bar people accused of crimes or needed as court witnesses from leaving. But scholars say China’s use of travel bans exceeds international norms.

The couple moved to America in 2019. They settled in Florida. Yu now studies journalism in Orlando.

Xie returned to Shanghai to care for her ailing mother in 2022. Shanghai police told her she couldn’t leave two days before she planned to return home in August. Xie tried to leave anyway. But border officials stopped her. They said she was “suspected of endangering national security.”

She says police told her a different story.

“You clearly told me that I am innocent,” she wrote in a letter posted on social media. “Once my husband returns to China for an investigation then this can be exchanged for my freedom to leave.”

The couple believes that the issue is three articles that police accuse Yu of publishing from the United States. The articles are about Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and those involved in China’s 1989 pro-democracy protest movement.

Yu says he is not the author of the articles. But police told Xie they traced the writings to an IP address associated with her husband.

Yu and his wife speak daily, using the Chinese messaging service WeChat. But separation has been hard. And Yu is concerned about Xie’s safety.

Yu feels guilty that his work affected his wife, who did not work at the Jifeng Bookstore. It feels like having an “open wound,” he says.

Over the past six months, Yu has thought about going back to China in exchange for his wife’s freedom. He hasn’t—out of fear that his children would be left alone if Chinese authorities banned them both from leaving. Their twin daughters turned 18 years old this month. They also have a 22-year-old son.

Yu published his wife’s letter on WeChat without telling her in advance. It disappeared several hours later, but not before it attracted attention from Chinese media outlets. A similar post on his Twitter account drew nearly 170,000 views.

The next day, police told Xie that her husband’s actions would make it more difficult to resolve her situation.

Some experts believe publicity through media can play a key role in allowing people to leave after exit bans.

Right now, Yu’s goal is to gain the U.S. government’s attention before Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to China in early February. “It’s a very small hope,” Yu says. “But now, I don’t have any other good hopes here.”

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. — Psalm 71:5

(In this undated photo, Miao Yu and his wife, Fang Xie, garden in Orlando, Florida. Miao Yu via AP)

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Most recent comments

1st comment

that would be scary to be in his shoes. I feel bad for them

2nd comment

I feel bad for them too. I hope that he can get her released somehow without getting arrested himself. China is just ridiculous.

thats terrible

thats terrible

That's sad. I wonder if she

That's sad. I wonder if she is in jail or if she's free to do whatever she wants in China.

and is having too many

and is having too many sensitive talks and sensitive scholars mean that those people turned his shop into a meeting place to discuss different ideas that china opposes?



China is so bad

China has turned so dictatorship communism and controlling towards their people
You'd think he'd all ready have support and help yet nah he democrats probably don't care and China is so "Helpful" towards us. (Note the quotation marks)
This is sad

This is so heartbreaking =( I

This is so heartbreaking =( I can only imagine how difficult it must be for them both. China's government will go to extreme lengths to strip people of their rights and liberties. The CCP is just pure evil. We need to pay attention to what is happening in China. There are millions of people being abused in China right now and people need to start caring more. From religious censorship, forced organ harvesting, concentration camps, to extreme torture, people are suffering and we must inform others.

oh that's sad

China is just getting scarier and scarer. we'll be praying for them

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