Blocked from leaving China for years, engineer finally comes home

Blocked from leaving China for years, engineer finally comes home
In this Jan. 28, 2013 photo, Chinese-born U.S. scientist Hu Zhicheng stands at the waterfront promenade along the Huangpu River in Shanghai. (Eugene Hoshiko / Associated Press)

The last time Victoria Hu saw her father at her family's home, she was 16, still a student at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School.

As the year have flown by, she has gone on to study at UC Berkeley, become an adept illustrator and launched a passionate and dogged campaign to bring home her father, Hu Zhicheng, a businessman and American citizen who was held in China for nearly five years after becoming embroiled in a legal dispute overseas.


Her efforts were rewarded this week when Hu, 51, was allowed to return to his Rancho Palos Verdes home.

"After 5 years, my dad is finally home!" Victoria Hu wrote on her Facebook profile. "Watching him walk around trying to find the chopsticks is the best feeling ever."

The return of her father came days before Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was set to welcome President Xi Jinping to Los Angeles, ahead of a Southern California summit between President Barack Obama and the newly elected Chinese leader.

Hu, an engineer and expert on catalytic converters used in automobiles, was arrested in 2008 amid accusations from a competitor that he had stolen information.

After 17 months in jail, Hu was freed and cleared of all charges. But when the rival company sued him, authorities barred him from leaving the country.

His family was left reeling.

"My younger brother has been forced to grow up without a father for the past four years. My mother spent all of her energy trying to bring my father home and the stress has had a devastating effect on her health," Victoria Hu wrote in an online petition that received more than 63,000 signatures.

Victoria Hu continued to wage a campaign to bring her father home, spreading her family's plea through social media and garnering national media attention.

Mitzi Cress, the principal at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, said that Victoria Hu and her younger brother, Richard, have been tireless advocates for their father's cause.

"They are just a wonderful, close family. The kids are so devoted," Cress said in an interview with The Times. "I think it's been incredibly difficult, but they have shown great resilience."

Hong Li, Hu's wife, told the Associated Press that her husband was still jet-lagged and resting, and was not ready to talk about his ordeal.

"We're grateful, we're very, very grateful for everybody's help and we're really happy to have him back home," Li said.