American officials told Chinese officials repeatedly that exit bans of U.S. citizens were a major concern.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken pressed senior Chinese officials about exit bans during talks in Anchorage in March, and raised cases of Americans trapped in exit bans during a phone call with China’s top foreign policy official, Yang Jiechi, in June.
When the deputy secretary of state, Wendy R. Sherman, visited China for talks in July, she “raised the cases of American and Canadian citizens” detained in China or held under exit bans, and told Chinese officials that “people are not bargaining chips,” the State Department said at the time.
Last month, Ms. Sherman held a meeting in Washington with China’s recently arrived ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, and “reviewed issues” from her earlier talks in China, the State Department said.
The siblings’ lawyer, Marc Ginsberg, credited their release in part to a Sept. 9 phone call between President Biden and President Xi Jinping of China. “I’m sure the president’s call with President Xi helped to break a logjam,” said Mr. Ginsberg, a former U.S. ambassador to Morocco who has been working pro bono for Victor and Cynthia Liu.
In a telephone interview, he said Mr. Liu and Ms. Liu would have no comment for the news media.
For its part, the Chinese government also denied a trade-off on Monday between Ms. Meng and the two Canadians, and did not mention any releases from exit bans.
The Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, were allowed to return to Canada after receiving medical bail, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, told a regular news briefing in Beijing. She said Ms. Meng was the real victim, not them.