US China American Released

FILE - U.S. citizen Daniel Hsu poses for a portrait in the apartment in Shanghai, China, April 13, 2020. Hsu, a U.S. citizen, fought for four years to escape China. The Seattle resident was barred from leaving despite having committed no crime, a pawn in a geopolitical game between two giant superpowers. Then earlier this month, just four days before the virtual meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Hsu was told to prepare to go home. He had less than 48 hours. (AP Photo, File)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Daniel Hsu, a US citizen, fought for four years to escape China.

The Seattle resident was barred from leaving despite having committed no crime. Then earlier this month, just four days before a virtual meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Hsu was told to prepare to go home. He had less than 48 hours.

“It was a total rush,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home in Seattle.

Hsu knew nothing of the horse-trading going on between China and the US in the build-up to the three-plus hour video meeting between Biden and Xi on Nov. 15. Both countries appeared to be trying to dial back tensions in their fractious relationship, and Hsu had become a bargaining chip. He could return to Seattle, and seven Chinese nationals who were convicted of crimes in the US would be sent back to China.

China’s ability to make deals by effectively taking people like Hsu hostage has raised concerns that Beijing may feel emboldened to double down on the practice.

“There’s no deterrent imposed on Beijing to doing it again,” said Sophie Richardson, China Director at Human Rights Watch. “The problem is if you took the truly principled road, a lot of people would still be sitting in arbitrary detention in China.”

A US official knowledgeable about the administration’s talks with Beijing told AP that Hsu was not a “deliverable” for the Biden-Xi meeting and that what looked to some like a prisoner exchange was rather the product of long – and continuing – efforts to get Beijing to live up to its international obligations. The official wasn’t authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Hsu told the AP he had been effectively held hostage by Chinese authorities seeking to convince his father to return to China and face justice for allegedly embezzling roughly $63,000 over 20 years ago. Hsu’s father said he is innocent and the target of a political vendetta.

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