Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Finally, A Happy Ending

Dr Hu Zhicheng is back in the US
The insane ordeal of Hu Zhicheng is finally over after five years.

He was born in China and went to the United States where he became internationally known as an expert in the development of catalytic converters that are used to limit pollution in cars. With a doctorate in engineering, Hu holds almost 50 patents and has conducted research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and worked for multinational companies.

Then in 2004 Hu returned to China with his family and hoped his knowledge would help China in building cleaner automobiles. He started working for a company in Jiangsu as chief scientist and president. Then his wife, Li Hong, who also has a doctorate in engineering, set up a company supplying materials to Hu's employer.

But then troubles began when Hu angered a well connected businessman of a competing company, and accused Hu of stealing information and providing it to his wife's company. In 2008 Li took the children back to the US for a holiday, but Hu, sensing things would turn nasty, told them not to come back.

He was right. Before the US Thanksgiving holiday, Hu was arrested on commercial theft charges. He was jailed for 17 months while police investigated the case and eventually found no wrongdoing.

So after he was freed, Hu thought he could leave the country and be reunited with his family. But that was not to be. Every time he tried to cross the border, the authorities would not let him leave, because his competitor filed a lawsuit seeking financial compensation.

Being pragmatic, Hu started working for the same company that had employed him, but now in Shanghai. While he was allowed to travel within the country, he was not allowed to leave it.

But suddenly on Monday, Li received a call from a relative in China to say Hu was on a flight back to Los Angeles.

"We're grateful, we're very, very grateful for everybody's help and we're really happy to have him back home," Li said on behalf of herself and their two children.

Some believe Hu was released just before the upcoming summit between American President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in California.

But Hu's ordeal should have never happened in the first place. However, it smells of someone being jealous of his knowledge and experience and wanting him to pay dearly for it; this someone also has very strong guanxi in order to not only arrest Hu on alleged trumped up charges and also prevent him from leaving the country.

He believes it started when the businessman tried to sell him inferior components and Hu refused to purchase them, but the well-connected executive refused to take no for an answer.

Hu only wanted to help his mother country become better, and yet his fellow Chinese did not see him as one of them.

In the meantime, many credit Hu's daughter Victoria for campaigning for her father's release. She was able to visit her father in 2010 and put up a petition on change.org that collected over 60,000 signatures and set up a Facebook page called "Help Victoria's Father Dr Zhicheng Hu Come Home."

With his arrival, on Facebook she posted: "After 5 years, my dad is finally home! Watching him walk around trying to find the chopsticks is the best feeling ever."

Her mother tried diplomatic means to get her husband home, but somehow their prayers were miraculously heard on Monday.

While the Chinese government claims to warmly invite overseas Chinese to come back and share their knowledge, we're assuming Hu will never return to the motherland again. His ordeal is a warning to any Chinese outside the mainland that coming back can be like being in no man's land.

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