China says two U.S. citizens released on bail

Elias Hubbard
October 20, 2019

Local police on September 29 and 27 arrested Jacob Harlan and Alyssa Petersen, the owner and director, respectively, of China Horizons, in the country's southeastern province of Jiangsu, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said during a press conference.

Geng did not specify the details of this case, but said the public security officials had detained the pair in accordance with the law and that they have informed the U.S. side at the right time.

Harlan in 2004 founded China Horizons, a business that helps bring teachers to China, and has been going back and forth between the US and China since at least 2002, according to the company's website.

China Horizons, which arranges for Americans to teach English at Chinese schools, said it would shut down at the end of October.

The crime that Harlan and Petersen are being suspected of carries a minimum two-year prison sentence.

China Horizons said on Facebook last week that the pair "are being charged for bogus crimes and their families are working on getting them global lawyers to help them get back home to the States".

Two GoFundMe pages for financing Harlan and Petersen's lawyer fees have collectively raised $40,000 as of press time.

According to Harlan's page, he was taken from his hotel room on the morning of September 28.

After 48 hours, authorities allowed Viara to call her mom in Utah but not tell her what happened or their specific location. Police later allowed her to fly home to the USA accompanied by a family friend, according to the site.

The family then contacted the State Department for help in locating her.

'We received information that she is doing okay, She wakes up when told, she goes to sleep when told. "She spends her day in a Jail Cell or walking in a circle counting steps", says the webpage, created a week ago.

"We are aware of the detention of two U.S. citizens in Jiangsu, China and the charges being brought against them by the provincial government", a U.S. State Department official said on condition of anonymity, according to the report.

"We take seriously our responsibility to assist USA citizens overseas and are monitoring the situation", a United States embassy spokesman told AFP.

While the charge generally applies to human traffickers, it has also been used in the past against those accused of conducting missionary work in China, which the officially atheist communist government strictly forbids.

Petersen has been involved in the program for 10 years, training English teachers and teaching at a school in Zhenjiang, according to the page.

Chinese authorities alerted the USA consulate in Shanghai and arranged consular visits with US diplomats for the two American citizens, Geng said.

Geng, however, downplayed the possibility of outside factors weighing on Petersen and Harlan's cases.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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