China releases American businessman held for 5 years in trade secrets case

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 June, 2013, 11:55am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am


A Chinese-American businessman who was held in China for nearly five years after he became involved in a dispute with a competitor has been allowed to return to his Southern California home, his wife said Tuesday.

Hong Li said her husband, Hu Zhicheng, arrived at Los Angeles International Airport from China on Monday night.

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

She said that her husband was asleep and still jet lagged and did not want to talk about his ordeal or his return home.

Hu was released just ahead of a summit between President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama , but Li said she did not know if that played any part in her husband's return.

China's government has in the past released prisoners or resolved cases like Hu's to improve relations with the US ahead of major meetings.

Li said she first learned he was coming home in a call on Monday from a relative in China, who said he was on a plane to the US.

"We have seen the press reports, and are pleased that Dr Hu is home with his family," the State Department said.

A spokesman at the US embassy in China had no immediate comment.

Hu returned to China in 2004 after years in the US, hoping to get in on the ground floor building cleaner-running vehicles just as smog-choked China's economy was booming.

Hu, who became president of a company building catalytic converters, was arrested in 2008 and later jailed for 17 months over a business dispute. He was eventually released, but officials refused to let him leave China.