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Chinese human rights lawyer lands in United States despite travel ban

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Beijing, China Aug 04, 2019, 05.31 PM (IST)

A Chinese human rights lawyer said Sunday he had landed in the United States despite being stopped from leaving Beijing in April by mainland authorities who imposed an exit ban on him.

"My family and I have landed in JFK airport, New York, late night on August 3, 2019," Chen Jiangang said in a statement provided by a friend to AFP. 

In April, the lawyer was pulled aside by customs at Beijing Capital airport as he prepared to board a flight to Seattle and told him he was banned from leaving China.

He had been selected to study English there as part of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship, a program named for the late vice president that provides a year of US education for emerging leaders from around the world.

Beijing defended the ban as "in accordance with China's own laws", but the US State Department called it disturbing.

It was Chen's work as a human rights lawyer in China that landed him in authority crosshairs.

Chen represented Xie Yang a leading lawyer involved in politically sensitive cases including defending Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who were himself rounded up in a sweeping crackdown on legal staff in 2015.

Chen remained vocal on the case even after authorities removed him as Xie's lawyer, drawing attention to his former client's allegations of torture in police custody.

In a separate 2017 incident criticized by the United Nations human rights office, Chen was stopped while vacationing with his family in remote Yunnan province.

His wife and young children were allowed to fly back to Beijing, but Chen said he was taken back via a 3,200 kilometre (2,000 miles) road journey under police escort.

"Merely for following and defending the law in normal practice, I have met naked threats delivered in my face by officials representing the Chinese government," Chen said in Sunday's statement.

"Such threats have put me in imminent danger of enforced disappearance, torture, or even death."  

Chen did not say how he came to leave China, but thanked friends and human rights organisations for their "rescue work and help".

"Without them, our family would not have made it to freedom," he said. 

Story highlights

A Chinese human rights lawyer said Sunday he had landed in the United States despite being stopped from leaving Beijing in April by mainland authorities who imposed an exit ban on him.