Two Americans who operate an English-teaching business in China have been detained in the east of the country, according to their company, which said that they were being held on “bogus” charges.
Jacob Harlan, a father of five, and Alyssa Petersen were nabbed last month in Jiangsu Province, their Idaho-based company China Horizons said on Facebook.
A gofundme.com page set up to raise money for Petersen’s legal fees says that she was formally charged with “illegally moving people across borders.”
“We are aware of the detention of two US citizens in Jiangsu, China, and the charges being brought against them by the provincial government,” a US Department of State official said on condition of anonymity. “We take seriously our responsibility to assist US citizens abroad and are monitoring the situation.”
The pair “are being charged for bogus crimes and their families are working on getting them international lawyers to help them get back home to the States,” China Horizons said on Facebook last week.
Harlan, the founder of China Horizons, was being held in a hotel under police surveillance in Zhenjiang, a separate gofundme.com page set up for his legal fees says.
Police detained him on Sept. 28 while he was with his eight-year-old daughter at a hotel in Weifang, Shandong Province, the post said, adding that the police took away his phone and computer.
His daughter was finally allowed a brief call to her mother.
Petersen, the associate director of China Horizons, was detained on about Sept. 27 and was not heard from for two weeks until the State Department located her, according to her gofundme.com page.
“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,” the gofundme.com page says. “She cannot have any contact with anyone outside of a Consulate Officer who can visit once a month and a Lawyer.”
The US State Department official confirmed that Petersen is receiving “all appropriate consular services.”
Zhenjiang police had no immediate comment.
China Horizons, which arranges for Americans to teach English at Chinese schools, said it would shut down at the end of this month.
“Unfortunately, because of increasing political and economic problems between the US and China, we are no longer able to send teachers to China safely,” the company wrote on Facebook.
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