BEIJING, China – China on Thursday, April 11, defended an exit ban imposed on a human rights lawyer as lawful after the United States urged Beijing to let him travel to receive a US fellowship.
Chen Jiangang was selected to study English 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.
But the lawyer said he was pulled aside by customs at Beijing Capital airport as he prepared to board a flight to Seattle on April 1 and told he was banned from leaving China.
"This persecution of lawyers and disregard for the rule of law once again shows to the world that the Chinese government is openly and unceasingly depriving people of their human rights," he said in a statement.
"Nothing stops the Chinese government from doing whatever it wants to, disregarding any law or commitment it makes," he said.
The US State Department said it was "disturbed" by the move and urged China to "respect Chen's freedom of movement and to view lawyers and rights defenders as partners in strengthening Chinese society through development of rule of law."
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Thursday the exit ban was "in accordance with China's own laws."
"China's relevant departments are...handling the exit-entry affairs of the relevant Chinese national in accordance with the law," Lu said at a regular press briefing.
Chen had represented Xie Yang, a leading lawyer involved in politically sensitive cases including the defending of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, who was 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.
Exit bans are a common way for China to try to curb the activities of figures it sees as disturbing the communist system.
In a 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-kilometer (2,000-mile) road journey under police escort. – Rappler.com