Resolution reached between American woman, Chinese ex-husband

Friday, October 18, 2002

ZHENGZHOU, China -- The American woman traveled across the world to a dreary Chinese provincial capital, determined to reclaim the 5-year-old son she says was stolen away. Her Chinese ex-husband insists he was forced to act on behalf of the child he loves deeply.

After more than a week of negotiations in a hotel suite, the two appeared to reach an agreement Thursday in an odd custody standoff that involved both governments and threatened to erupt into a diplomatic dilemma days before the Chinese president visits the United States.

Camille Colvin, 35, of New York City, left the Zhengzhou Sofitel hotel in a taxi with her son, Griffin, her brother and three private security guards. It wasn't clear exactly what agreement was reached, and Colvin wouldn't give any details.

"From our perspective, we have a resolution. We have done everything we have been asked to do," Colvin said as she checked out at the front desk after nine days sequestered away in delicate negotiations. Her son seemed happy and stared at cameras as she spoke.

Colvin's ex-husband, Guo Rui, an artist, brought the boy back to China during a visitation in the United States in July, maintaining that his son, a Chinese-born U.S. citizen, should be governed by Chinese law. He acknowledged taking the child but said it wasn't an abduction.

"I was entirely without any other options," he said, sitting in the hotel lobby after his ex-wife and Griffin departed. "I took the child to assert my normal right to see my son. ... I really love this child."

The two former spouses -- along with Colvin's brother and several of Guo's associates -- had been holed up in the seventh-floor hotel suite since early last week, said a friend of Colvin's in Beijing, who insisted on anonymity.

The friend of Colvin's said Chinese authorities had placed the estranged couple in the suite and ordered them to work things out.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Beijing had no immediate comment. China's Foreign Ministry has been monitoring the matter and, on Thursday, called it "an ordinary civil case which involves a family dispute."

"His parents married in China," spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said. "So according to China's laws, if they want to divorce, they should go through the relevant procedures in China. His mother has already filed for divorce, and both of them are negotiating with each other."

The friend said the couple had left China two years ago, went to the United States and were divorced last year after a failed attempt at reconciliation. In July, he said, Guo picked up the boy for visitation and left the country.

But Guo told a different story, saying Colvin violated a California divorce agreement that gave him visitation rights, then moved to New York and refused to let him see Griffin despite a court order.

"I hope I can have a normal legal channel to see my son," Guo said. He acknowledged he would not return to the United States, where he could face criminal charges.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said U.S. custody rulings aren't automatically binding in foreign countries, and he noted that China is not a party to an international convention that calls for the return of an abducted child to the custody parent.

"But as in this case, when there's a decision on custody that's been violated, the abducting party can be charged with international parental child abduction," Boucher said this week.

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