China says two detained Americans have been released on bail - SupChina
Free

We're a new type of news publication

China news you won't read elsewhere.

Weekly Newsletter

Get a roundup of the most important and interesting stories coming out of China.

Podcasts

Sinica, TechBuzz China, and our 6 other shows are the undisputed champs of China podcasts. Listen now.

Feature Articles

Interactive, web-based deep dives into the real China.

Premium

Join the thousands of executives, diplomats, and journalists that rely on SupChina for daily analysis of the full China story.

Daily Newsletter

All the news, every day. Premium analysis directly from our Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Goldkorn.

24/7 Slack Community

Have China-related questions and want answers? Our Slack community is a place to learn, network, and opine.

Free Live Events & More

Monthly live conference calls with leading experts, free entry to SupChina live events in cities around the world, and more.

"A jewel in the crown of China reporting. I go to it, look for it daily. Why? It adds so much insight into the real China. Essential news, culture, color. I find SupChina superior."
— Max Baucus, former U.S. Ambassador to China

Free

We're a new type of news publication

China news you won't read elsewhere.

Weekly Newsletter

Get a roundup of the most important and interesting stories coming out of China.

Podcasts

Sinica, TechBuzz China, and our 6 other shows are the undisputed champs of China podcasts. Listen now.

Feature Articles

Interactive, web-based deep dives into the real China.

OR… for more in-depth analysis and an online community of China-focused professionals:

Learn About Premium Access Now!
Learn More
Minimize
Learn More
Minimize

China says two detained Americans have been released on bail

Jacob Harlan, left, and Alyssa Petersen, right


UPDATE: Multiple sources have confirmed that the allegation we published earlier that the detained pair may have been engaged in missionary work is not true. We have this from firsthand sources who knew the pair, and from several reliable sources who confirm that “the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints (known colloquially as Mormons) do not proselytize officially or unofficially anywhere in the PRC.”

Our apologies for the error. 

Two Americans, Jacob Harlan and Alyssa Petersen, were reportedly detained near Shanghai three weeks ago, Voice of America reports, though they have reportedly been released on bail. From VOA:

[On] Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Petersen and Harlan have been released on bail and granted access to U.S. consular officials.

Voice of America first reported on the Americans’ detention on Wednesday, allegedly for “illegally moving people across borders”:

Alyssa Petersen, who attended the Idaho campus of Brigham Young University from 2014 to 2017, has been arrested and detained in a Chinese jail outside Shanghai, according to social media posts by China Horizons, her employer, and her parents. After not hearing from her for weeks, her family discovered she had been arrested by Chinese police sometime around the end of September. Her employer Jacob Harlan, who owns China Horizons, was also reported detained.

The charges are “bogus, as she has been doing this for 8+ years with no issues,” the family stated.

Petersen is director of China Horizons, an English language program that provides a cultural experience for American college students who teach English in Chinese schools. She assisted Harlan in coordinating visas and travel arrangements, according to the company’s Facebook page.

The Washington Times (a highly partisan news source) says that “the timing of the arrests coincided with the arrest of a Chinese official in New York on visa fraud charges,” and that the detentions in Jiangsu “appear to be a Cold War-style hostage-taking.”

Meanwhile, Dan Harris of the China Law Blog was quoted in the New York Times with this chilling statement:

“China has become a risky place. If you are going to do business there you had better know what the laws are and you had better follow them, because China is not going to let anyone slide, especially not an American or a Canadian.”

Share
Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.

4 Comments

  1. Gavin Scott Reply

    As far as I know, there’s a few of these schools, including one in the city I work in. They pretend to be charitable but are making massive money, at least the ones I know, exploiting young mormons who get practically no money in a country where even the least experienced teachers get 1,500USD a month. The students parents pay a very healthy fee and that money is paid to the local agency working with the foreign “charity”. As a private school owner I wish I could get away with this, I’d be very wealthy after a few years. The school in my city brings in 20 new, unexperienced teachers every term. Not good for the kids being taught, not good for the teachers financially but very good for a few people on either side of the scam.

  2. Jack Woods Reply

    I’ll call BS on the statement about him doing missionary work. If you are a Mormon in China and you try to do active or passive proselyting then you will be excommunicated. The LDS Church has a zero tolerance policy in China. Members are told that and they are reminded of that every Sunday before service. Don’t confuse the work of the Church elsewhere with the activities of members in China.

    Evangelical Christians are another story. They all seem to be proselyting with financial support from organizations outside of China.

    I lived in China for two years and I’m also Mormon.

  3. Alex Harper Reply

    Just as a clarification, neither Petersen nor Harlan were engaged in missionary work of any kind. The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints and its members (known colloquially as Mormons) do not proselytize officially or unofficially anywhere in the PRC. Having known both Harlan and Petersen personally during my time living in Nanjing, I can refute your conjecture that Petersen might have been participating in missionary work there as completely incorrect. Thank you for sharing this update on their status!

  4. Jeremy GoldkornJeremy Goldkorn Post author Reply

    Thank you for the comments. Multiple sources have confirmed that the rumor (and that’s all we had) about missionary work was false.

    Our apologies, correction made above.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.