Dublin 26th November, 2020:  The family of Richard O’Halloran is calling on the Irish government to take urgent action to have him immediately freed from China, where he has been subjected to an exit ban, since February 2019. The government is fully aware of the case but, other than a few courtesy calls and meetings, it has not done anything to secure the release of an innocent Irish citizen.

Richard O’Halloran, who is married to Tara, is a father to four children living in Dublin.  He is the first and only Irish citizen to be the subject of a Chinese exit ban. Today (Wednesday, 25th November) is day 636 since Richard and his family were last together.  The Chinese exit ban is due to an allegation against a shareholder in the aircraft leasing company he works for. He travelled voluntarily to China in February 2019, to look to resolve the issue. He has been detained there since. There has never been any complaint or any allegation against him or the Irish company, there are no charges against him, nor has there been any suspicion or accusation of wrong-doing against him or the company (see explanatory note to editor).

“We are reluctantly forced to make our case public because of the lack of any real action on the part of the Government in getting Richard home. There have been sporadic meetings and calls with the Department and Minister for Foreign Affairs about Richard, but nothing is happening.  Richard appreciates the consular visits in Shanghai but he urgently needs a sign that something real is being done so he can return to Ireland.  He is an innocent Irish citizen being held without any legitimate cause,” said Tara O’Halloran. “Minister Coveney assured me he was having a critical call with his counterpart in China on Monday of this week about Richard’s plight, but it turns out it was a simply a trade call. Richard’s name came up during the conversation but the Minister didn’t press him for any details and it appears he got no information about the situation. I was pinning all my hopes on that call as I was led to understand this would be a huge break in the case.  The very same day, the Government tweeted about promoting China-Ireland relations and strengthening bilateral cooperation, despite an Irish citizen being held for ransom in China.”

"It is really very upsetting that he is still in China. We need the Government to exercise its influence, including through the European Union and other allies, to deliver him home safely to his family immediately, before he succumbs to the pressure and serious health issues he has. The life of an innocent Irish man should not be secondary to commercial agreements. We are begging for action now, not words,” said Tara O’Halloran.

Richard O’Halloran is a commercial hostage; he has fully cooperated with all legal requests made of him. He was a witness in a case against the actions of the ultimate shareholder in the group of companies that Richard worked for, but not the accused or a defendant in the proceedings. When that case was completed, the prosecutor stated that Richard should be allowed to return home.  In the first instance, he should not have been held there for the case in the manner he was.  The Chinese judge that convicted and sentenced the Shareholder is demanding the return of an asset or funds to the value of the asset, in which Richard has no ownership or control of. “This is a smokescreen. Richard is being detained illegally and we want him home now,” concluded Tara O’Halloran.”

The O’Halloran children are aged between seven and thirteen and have all had birthdays, school ceremonies, anniversaries, sports days, plays, musicals, matches, half terms, summer holidays, Easter, Christmas and New Year without their father.  Like many others they have been in lockdown since last March, but with no father present.  “The kids are absolutely heartbroken to be still without their dad after 20 months and distraught at the idea another Christmas apart from him,” concluded Tara O’Halloran.

Richard has not been able to venture outside much as he is seriously immuno-compromised with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency which raises his risk for lung disease or infection. He also suffers from asthma. His health has been severely affected by the adverse air quality in Shanghai. In the past, he has had major surgeries under general anaesthetic due to his lung complaint. If he contracts Covid-19 he may not survive.  He recently collapsed and endured a week-long hospitalisation.  There is a deep mental toll arising from the situation that will take years to recover from.