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ICC Note: If the Chinese government thinks it can prevent the world from knowing about its human rights abuses by preventing the travel of human rights lawyers, it is seriously mistaken.  It therefore seems the travel ban is intended more to punish those who dare to disagree with the party in power.

By Didi Kirstin Tatlow, Sinosphere

08/24/2015 China (

Last Thursday, with their bags all checked in at Beijing Capital International Airport for their flight to New York, Liang Xiaojun, his wife and their 8-year-old son lined up at passport control.

They were headed to Columbia University, where Mr. Liang, a lawyer and founding member of the group China Against the Death Penalty, was to study “for a semester, or perhaps longer,” he said in an interview in Beijing on Monday.

This message on Mr. Liang’s Twitter account describes how he was stopped and told he could not leave the country. “I had prepared myself psychologically early on,” he wrote. “But it hurts that a child’s young spirit must face the reality of a cruel dictatorship.”

Mr. Liang is part of a large circle of human rights lawyers in China, hundreds of whom have been questioned or detained since early July in a nationwide crackdown on civil rights lawyers and their associates.

At the checkpoint, Mr. Liang handed over the family’s passports. The immigration officer cleared his wife and his son.

Then the officer picked up Mr. Liang’s passport, typed into the computer and said, “There are some things we need to check here.” He asked Mr. Liang to step aside.

“I waited half an hour,” Mr. Liang said. “I was anxious because I knew they might not let me out. But I had also come prepared that this might happen.”

Officials told Mr. Liang that on orders from the Beijing Public Security Bureau, he could not leave the country.

“They said I might endanger national security,” Mr. Liang said.

He said he believed the order may have originated with the Public Security Bureau in Tianjin, a city about 90 miles southeast of Beijing, where many of the lawyers are detained and which many lawyers see as the center of the crackdown.

“If the Tianjin Public Security Bureau issues a nationwide order, then the public security bureaus in other cities have to obey,” he said.

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