CCP Tightens Exit Controls Amid Sharp Increase In Citizens Fleeing China

Authored by Alex Wu via The Epoch Times,

The sharp increase of Chinese citizens joining the “run” movement—fleeing China by both legal and illegal means—has attracted international attention since the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) three-year draconian “zero-COVID” lockdowns that caused countless humanitarian tragedies.

Most of them have taken various routes to the United States, their ideal destination.

Meanwhile, the CCP is reported to have tightened control over Chinese citizens’ overseas travel to save face as so many citizens are fleeing, in contrast to the CCP’s claim of “confidence” in its system.

Different Routes

According to media reports and what fleeing citizens told The Epoch Times, Chinese nationals at various economic strata take different routes into the United States.

People with sufficient funds can enter Mexico through a Schengen visa or a short visit visa. Some use a Korean visa to enter Panama without a visa, and some people directly obtain a Mexican visa under the arrangement of an agency and cross the U.S. southern border via the shortest route.

Other Chinese have taken longer routes, first flying to Thailand, then to Turkey, then to Ecuador. Others fly to Turkey via Hong Kong.

Mr. Lu, who is doing business in Thailand, told The Epoch Times that the Chinese regime has tightened its exit controls. His full name, along with others mentioned in this story, is being withheld for his safety.

If people join a tour group, they won’t be bothered by border control agents. But people traveling independently will most likely be interrogated for extended periods by customs about their reasons for going to Thailand.

“The authorities are worried that after people go to Thailand, they may go from Thailand to Turkey, South America, and then enter the United States,” he said. “Some people from Chengdu, Luoyang, and other parts of China told me that when they were leaving China as individuals, they’re all interrogated, the shortest questioning time was 25 minutes.”

Mr. Lu believes that the reason why customs have interrogated people like this was that they must have received orders from above to probe people’s reasons for leaving.

Mr. Zhang, who just fled China, told The Epoch Times that when they left China via Turkey in September 2023, it was relatively normal and there were not many restrictions. But since early December last year it started to tighten restrictions.

Migrants walk along the US side of the United States border wall after crossing through an open gap in Jacumba, Calif., on Dec. 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Zhang said that one of his friends went to Turkey in December, but the situation was different.

“He bought a ticket that required a layover in Chengdu in China. That is, he flew from Bangkok to Chengdu and then to Turkey,” he said. “When he entered Chengdu Airport, the Chinese airport staff stopped him and tried to drag him to the Chinese domestic area, preventing him from leaving. Fortunately, he stayed with another passenger who is Turkish in the international area in the airport and didn’t cross to the Chinese side at the airport. Once he enters the the Chinese area at the airport, he will definitely not be able to get out of the country. He thought about it now and felt it’s rather scary.”

CCP Tightens Control to Save Face

Mr. Yang, a Chinese expat in Thailand, told The Epoch Times, “Those Chinese who have the means to flee, most of them have already left after the CCP abandoned the COVID-19 controls. There are still more people leaving now because they needed time to take care of families, children, real estate, and businesses in China, so they are leaving slowly.” He said that it is certain that the communist regime is trying to suppress this, because there are too many Chinese people fleeing now.

“Many Chinese people haven’t been interviewed by the CCP’s national security. They haven’t attracted the attention of the CCP, or were not its focus, so they were able to leave. Those people who have been interviewed by the national security are restricted from leaving China, so they have to find ways to leave the country illegally,” he said.

Mr. Wei, who just came to the United States last year, told The Epoch Times, “I learned from many people that the exit control at many ports in China is currently being tightened.”

Li Beixing, who traveled to the United States last year, told The Epoch Times, “The CCP’s customs staff asked me to take out everything from my bag, and then they took my cellphone to check my communication records. They interrogated me for at least two hours, asking every question they could think of.”

Lawyer Liang Shaohua, former chief compliance officer of a mainland asset management company, told The Epoch Times that everyone in mainland China could apply for a passport before, but that seems to no longer be the case. Those who have a passport are also not allowed to renew it.

A post on Chinese social media has attracted wide attention in recent days. It shows that Lianjiang County in Fujian Province was having a meeting titled “Lianjiang County’s deployment meeting to crackdown on smuggling to the United States and the control of key personnel involved in fraud” to focus on the “run” movement in the county.

Mr. Wu from Fujian told The Epoch Times that what happened in Lianjiang is true. “If someone is caught there, they will be fined into bankruptcy,” he said.

Mr. Wu said that Lianjiang County is the hometown of overseas Chinese, and is a place known for smuggling people out of the country. After three years of COVID-19 lockdowns and strict controls, a large number of people have begun to flee again, and many people are being smuggled out to other countries, with most fleeing to the United States.

“Why [does the CCP] need to crack down on it? People are all gone, there is no one here anymore, and it sounds bad in the international community,” Mr. Wu said.

Mr. Li in Lianjiang also confirmed with The Epoch Times Lianjiang’s supression notice, saying that it’s been particularly strict recently. “It is because the CCP is afraid of losing face, so the higher-ups are suppressing local officials, and now people are caught for smuggling out they will be sentenced to prison.”

A Border Patrol agent apprehends a Chinese couple that just waded across the Rio Grande from Mexico into Eagle Pass, Texas, on Jan. 25, 2022. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

International human right group Safeguard Defenders published a report in last May that the CCP “is increasingly resorting to exit bans to punish human rights defenders (HRDs) and their families, hold people hostage to force targets overseas to come back to China (a practice called persuade to return, a form of transnational repression), control ethnic-religious groups, engage in hostage diplomacy and intimidate foreign journalists.”

The CCP’s exit ban and others are “illegitimate and violate the Universal Declaration of Human Right’s principle of Freedom of Movement,” the report pointed out.

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