Engineer's return to China leads to jail and limbo," today's New York Times reminds us of things we take for granted.
Hu Zhicheng is a naturalized American citizen, an engineer educated at MIT, with 48 patents and deep experience designing catalytic converter systems. Mr. Hu saw an opportunity to help China with its pollution problems if he returned and applied his knowledge there. He went to China in 2004, bringing his family there in 2006 as he went from success to success in manufacturing, eventually becoming president of the company that supplies catalytic converters to half of China's cars.
Then he declined to accept a company as a supplier, Hysci Specialized Materials. Retaliation was not long in coming, according to Mr. Hu. Tianjin public security officers arrived in response to an accusation that Hu had stolen trade secrets, though the technology was public information in the U.S. The shady part was that buying from Hysci would make the charges go away. Mr. Hu was jailed for 17 months, at times being made to sleep on the floor of his cell. He was released after prosecutors withdrew the case.
The Hu family was able to leave China when the situation became dire. Now that Mr. Hu is at liberty, whenever he tries to board a plane for the U.S., he is stopped by immigration officials who have unsubstantiated claims that he is wanted for crimes in Tianjin.
Although Thanksgiving in the U.S. is past, perhaps we should be grateful for a business and legal system that is imperfect, but not a threat to life and liberty.