Friday, September 30, 2011

Hu Zhicheng: US scientist trapped in China

In the year-plus since he was released from jail, scientist Hu Zhicheng has been free, free to drive from his Shanghai apartment to his office two hours away, free to get acupuncture treatment for chronic back pain, free except to leave China and rejoin his family in America.

Twice Hu went to airports to board flights out of China only to be turned back by border control officers. A China-born U.S. citizen and award-winning inventor of emission control systems for autos, Hu has written to the police who investigated him for infringing commercial secrets and met with the prosecutors who dropped the charges for lack of evidence. Yet he has not been allowed to leave - nor told why.

"My priority is to go home and be with my family," said Hu, slight, soft-spoken and reserved. "I know how much they have suffered."

Writ large, Hu's case shows the pitfalls that Chinese who study and work in the West face when they return to apply their entrepreneurial zeal to the booming China market. Trade disputes that would be civil suits in the West become criminal cases in China. Chinese companies often cultivate influence with local officials and thus may rally law enforcement and a malleable legal system to their side when deals go awry.

In Hu's case, he and his wife believe that the company which accused him of secrets theft persuaded authorities to keep the travel ban in place. In China, sometimes punishment goes on even when the law says stop.

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AS_CHINA_FREE_BUT_NOT_FREE?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-09-30-05-06-10