American college student being held in China appeals to Trump for help

An American college student who, along with his sister and mother, has not been allowed to leave China for more than a year pleaded directly to President TrumpDonald John TrumpAdvocate calls for fundamental shift in criminal justice system Shame on Europe at the G-7 Senate GOP pledges to oppose any efforts to ‘pack’ Supreme Court MORE on Thursday to negotiate with Beijing for his release. 

“More needs to be done on our behalf. And I just want to take this time to address president directly, if I may, and say this: President Trump, you are the only person who can bring my sister and me home. We need your help. We need it urgently,” Victor Liu said on CNN. 

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Liu, 20, has been trapped in China for more than a year, saying he is being used as “human bait” to try to get his estranged father back to the country to face criminal charges of financial misconduct.

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“It’s surreal and it makes me angry and it pains me to know that because of my estranged biological father, whom I must know abandoned my family many years ago, whom I haven’t seen since, and whom I believe has another family now, because of what he allegedly did when I was just 8 years old as an American elementary school student in third grade living in Massachusetts, my family and I are being made to suffer and we are being used as human bait trying to get him to come back to China,” he said. 

Liu specifically thanked Trump, national security adviser John BoltonJohn Robert BoltonSchumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord Why President Trump must keep speaking out on Hong Kong Trump meets with national security team on Afghanistan peace plan MORE and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill’s Morning Report – Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks Democrats call for end to Remain in Mexico asylum policy Trump administration preparing for talks with Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen: report MORE, as well as Democratic Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyFederal agency ends policy protecting migrants who receive medical care Climate plan sets Sanders apart from the rest of the pack The Hill’s Morning Report – Is this a turning point in 2020 Dem presidential primary? MORE and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOcasio-Cortez blasts former senate Dem for helping Lyft fight gig worker bill Democrats certify candidate lineup for third presidential debate Yang hits CNN, media over campaign coverage MORE of his home state of Massachusetts for their support but said “more needs to be done.”

“Right now, I am beyond terrified being in China and just speaking with you. I’m seriously concerned about my safety and my family’s safety, and I desperately need to come home to the U.S. as soon as possible,” he said, adding that both he and his sister have been diagnosed with depression and that his sister also has “severe anxiety.” 

David Pressman, a former deputy United Nations ambassador who is serving as legal counsel for the Liu family, said in a statement to The Hill on Thursday that the siblings “have been held against their will as a crude form of human bait for the sole purpose of attempting to lure their estranged biological father back to China.”

“Neither Victor nor Cynthia are accused of any wrongdoing whatsoever. I am deeply concerned about their mental health and their ability to continue to endure this awful situation,” Pressman said. “There is absolutely no basis under international law or Chinese law to prevent these young Americans from returning home.”

Trump has taken pride in the past at being able to return Americans held abroad back home, touting his successful efforts to broker the release of three U.S. citizens held in North Korea. 

The State Department issued a travel advisory in January warning of Beijing’s “coercive” use of exit bans. 

“Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using ‘exit bans,’ sometimes keeping U.S. citizens in China for years,” the advisory said. “China uses exit bans coercively: to compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations, to lure individuals back to China from abroad, and to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.”

—Updated at 5:48 p.m.

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