Imagine being trapped in a foreign dictatorship while being forced to pay a business debt that isn’t yours

This story is wild:

It has been nearly five years since police here told Henry Cai, a U.S. citizen from California, that he couldn’t leave China.

Just before Christmas 2017, he was stopped at the airport at the end of a business trip. Mr. Cai later learned somebody was trying to force him to pay an outstanding debt of several million dollars owed by a Beijing company where he was a director and shareholder.

He thought it was a misunderstanding and expected it to be sorted out quickly. And yet here he remains, stuck in China, the target of a form of Chinese justice known as an exit ban.

His is believed to be the longest-running case of such legal purgatory for an American businessman. Now 61 years old, Mr. Cai has wrangled with China’s judicial bureaucracy, tested the limits of U.S. diplomacy and depleted his savings.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal he said he fears deteriorating U.S.-China relations—which are in the spotlight with the first meeting between President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping as heads of state on Monday—have worsened his quandary.

The U.S. has accused China of using exit bans on Americans and other foreigners “without fair and transparent process under the law.” Diplomats say Americans trapped in legal jeopardy abroad increasingly occupy their time.

Mr. Cai hasn’t been charged with a crime. Instead, court records outline a financial dispute between business partners that has included a police investigation. Mr. Cai said he is being squeezed to pay a debt that isn’t his.

You can read the rest of the Wall Street Journal article by James T. Areddya and Brian Spegele at this link.

Henry Cai, trapped in China. (WSJ photo.)

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