A US pilot allegedly kidnapped and tried to deport a student back to China — and it points to a much larger trend

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REUTERS/Thomas Peter

  • The pilot of a California flight school, along with his assistant, allegedly kidnapped and tried to deport a Chinese student.
  • The two alleged offenders threatened the student and battered him, before taking him to a local airport where they were arrested.
  • Redding Police told Business Insider the case was “very strange,” but that the kidnappers don’t have any connection to the Chinese government
  • There have been a number of kidnappings and forced deportation of Chinese nationals and international citizens back to China which US officials are reportedly concerned about.

A flight school pilot, along with his assistant, allegedly kidnapped and tried to deport one of their Chinese students in California last week.

The incident occurred on Friday morning in Redding, California, where Tianshu Shi was a student at IASCO Flight Training. The aviation school appears to offer flight training programs specifically for Chinese students.

According to Redding Police, pilot and General Manger of IASCO Jonathan McConkey and his assistant Kelsi Hoser went to Shi’s home on Thursday night and said they would be taking him to the airport at 6 a.m. to return to China.

Shi, 21 years old, told Record Spotlight that he was never given a reason for being deported, and refused to leave. Shi said he had not received any sort of documentation indicating he needed to go back, and a fellow student told Spotlight that students’ passports were all confiscated by the flight school.

Shi said he believed his roommates had been instructed to spy on him and didn’t sleep all night.

According to the police report, the pair returned the next morning and demanded Shi leave with them. An audio recording reportedly made by Shi and shared with Spotlight reveals a man and woman tell Shi he is in their custody and threatening him with violence:

“You’re going home, with or without your luggage,” a man can be heard saying.

A woman switches from Mandarin to English, and says: “If you cannot speak English, you are not going to be able to stay here.”

“Your arse is getting on the plane right now or I’ll break your f***ing arm… The United States government needs you out of this country right now, you understand?” the man adds.

The police report says Shi went with the couple to Redding Municipal Airport after they “battered him.”

Shi’s brother in China who had been trying to call Shi tipped off Redding police, who arrived at the airport and arrested the pair for kidnapping.

Redding Police Lt. Jon Poletski told Business Insider that Shi sustained minor injuries and is pressing charges.

“The incident seems very strange to us,” Poletski said. “We’re still investigating and interviewing other students to see if this was something that was isolated or has occurred multiple times before.”

Poletski said the department was still investigating the motive for kidnapping, but said they “have no evidence to indicate that the two alleged kidnappers have any connection to the Chinese government.”

But several instances of Chinese nationals being kidnapped overseas have been reported in recent years.

Officials are concerned over a number of similar kidnappings

china police arrest

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REUTERS/Guang Niu

Cases like Shi’s are not uncommon and are similar to a number of kidnappings thought to be coordinated by the Chinese government.

Foreign Policy recently reported that Western intelligence officials are concerned over what appears to be a large-scale operation to forcibly repatriate individuals to China. The report cites kidnappings of businessmen, ex-Communist Party officials, and activists – some of whom are citizens of other countries.

In January 2017, Xiao Jianhua, a Chinese-Canadian billionaire, was reportedly kidnapped from his luxury apartment in Hong Kong sent back to mainland China, after possibly being sedated and rolled away in a wheelchair.

In October 2015, Gui Minhai, a Hong-Kong based bookseller with Swedish citizenship, disappeared from his holiday home in Thailand and resurfaced in Chinese custody months later. After his release, he disappeared a second time in January this year and his whereabouts remain unclear.

The practice appears to have occurred for nearly two decades.

In 2005, Chen Yonglin, a Chinese diplomat who defected to Australia, claimed kidnappings in Australia were carried out at least once a year. Chen also said security forces drugged and kidnapped the son of a former Chinese official and sent him back to China via a shipping vessel, though Australian officials and the alleged victim reportedly deny the claims.

A US State Department official told Foreign Policy that the abductions have become more prevalent and the issue “is being talked constantly about at the top.”