Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) introduced legislation to enhance accountability for Chinese officials involved in unjustly banning American citizens from leaving China. In recent years, officials have kept U.S. citizens — not accused of committing a crime — from leaving China, often to pressure relatives wanted by the Chinese government. This so-called “exit ban” policy violates international norms and has been used to keep Americans in China for years at a time. The Department of State’s Travel Advisory for China notes that U.S. citizens trapped in China are also harassed and threatened by authorities. It is estimated that at least two dozen U.S. citizens have been prevented from leaving China over the past three years.
Original cosponsors also include: Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
“It is immoral and unjust that the Communist Chinese government uses so-called “exit bans” to prevent American citizens from leaving China. We must protect our citizens and ensure that they are able to return home when they travel abroad,” Rubio said. “I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important legislation which will ensure accountability for those involved in violating the rights of American citizens.”
“The Chinese government’s use of ‘exit bans’ is oppressive and unjustified,” Markey said. “Two of my constituents, Victor and Cynthia Liu, have been unfairly barred from leaving China since June of 2018. In addition to having their lives upended by not being able to return home, they face regular surveillance, harassment, and threats from Chinese authorities. This legislation will make sure that Chinese authorities responsible for their mistreatment, and for the mistreatment of other Americans, know that such denial of basic rights is unacceptable.”
“China’s use of exit bans on my constituents and other American citizens is unacceptable and must end,” Warren said. “The Liu siblings are confined to Chinese territory for no legitimate reason and it is long past time for them to come home. I’m glad to partner with Senator Markey on a bill that would hold the Chinese government accountable for this unjust policy.”
“It is unacceptable for the Chinese government to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China when they have done absolutely nothing wrong,” Van Hollen said. “The Chinese government needs to be held accountable when they engage in this unjust behavior. This legislation will ensure that China knows they’ll suffer consequences if they continue to abuse the rights of American citizens.”
Specifically, the legislation:
- Denies or revokes visas of Chinese officials involved in the planning and execution of the “exit ban” policy
- Requires regular reporting from the executive branch to Congress on the number of officials for whom visas have been denied or revoked
- Requires the State Department to report publicly on the number of Americans who are being punished by the “exit ban” policy
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