Shanghai | John Graham Harper is not the first Australian whose China dream has turned into a nightmare.
While he cannot leave the country, in some respects he is one of the lucky ones in having avoided prison.
A string of Australian executives have been jailed in China over the past decade, highlighting the risks of doing business in a country where the legal system does not operate as courts do in the West.
Former Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu spent nine years in a Shanghai prison after being charged with bribery. Some believe his arrest was payback for Rio’s withdrawal from a joint venture with Chinese state-owned company Chinalco. Mr Hu was released last year.
Three Australian citizens working for Crown Resorts were arrested in China in 2016 after the authorities detained staff working for James Packer’s casino empire in the country.
Australian businesswoman Charlotte Chou spent six years in prison after being found guilty of bribery and embezzlement, The Australian government was critical of the way the courts handled her case at the time.
Former Australian public servant Carl Mather served six months in prison in 2012. He was sentenced after two men involved in a business dispute with his wife claimed they were injured in an altercation with him at his home in the eastern city of Nanjing.
Matthew Ng, an Australian travel entrepreneur, spent nearly six years in jail after being found guilty of bribery and embezzlement in China.
While many of the Australians involved in high-profile commercial cases are no longer in prison in China, there are others involved in disputes who have been unable to leave.
Yang Hengjun ... detained since January in a case that is more political than commercial. AP
Yang Hengjun, an Australian writer, has been detained in China since January on espionage allegations, although his case is more political than a commercial dispute. A number of Australians are also in prison in China on drug offences.
"If you're involved in a criminal matter or investigation, or a civil or commercial dispute, you may not be allowed to leave China until the matter is resolved," the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says in its travel advice for China.
"In some cases, individuals aren't aware an exit ban has been imposed on them until they have attempted to depart China."