(Bloomberg) -- China said a three-year prohibition on two American siblings from leaving its borders was legal even though they faced no criminal charges, a stance intended to counter accusations Beijing has used “exit bans” to force people to cooperate.

American citizens Cynthia and Victor Liu have been allowed to return to the U.S., the New York Times reported Monday, citing their lawyer. Their departure came as Huawei Technologies Co. executive Meng Wanzhou reached a deal with U.S. prosecutors to end extradition proceedings against her. The pair, stopped from leaving China since mid-2018, are the children of Liu Changming, a former bank executive wanted on fraud charges.

“According to relevant laws in China, we restricted their exit from China and recently we have lifted the ban in accordance with the law,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Tuesday at a regular news briefing in Beijing, without explaining how the law now supported their release.

“The handling of their cases is an independent judicial process. China is a country with rule of law. No matter which country you are from, you need to abide by Chinese laws.”

China uses “exit bans on U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries without due process of law,” the State Department says in a travel advisory for the Asian nation. The bans are used to force people to help in government investigations and pressure relatives to return to China from abroad, it adds, and they can also be used to decide civil disputes in favor of Chinese citizens and gain leverage over foreign governments.

Hua said there are four scenarios where people can be legally stopped from leaving China. One of her examples was the State Council, the cabinet, or a local government deciding that someone shouldn’t be allowed to depart.

Meng received a hero’s welcome from the Chinese government upon her return to Shenzhen on Saturday after reaching a deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. prosecutors. Two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, returned to Calgary on Saturday after China granted them bail for unexplained medical reasons. 

The White House has said there was “no link” between the U.S. settling criminal charges against Meng and the two men’s release.

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