REXBURG −Chinese officials arrested China Horizons director Alyssa Petersen last month and charged her with “illegally moving people across borders." Peterson's family believes the charges to be unfounded and have set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for legal fees.
China Horizons is a Rexburg-based company that facilitates an English teaching program that many students from Brigham Young University-Idaho participate in every year.
“We’re an English teaching program that offers an immersive experience within a Chinese school,” their website reads. “We seek out individuals with high morals and standards who are looking for a life-changing opportunity abroad, while offering meaningful service. Our participants are predominantly undergraduate students who are adventurous, independent, easy-going, and adaptable. We welcome everyone to consider this adventure!”
Hannah Petersen, sister to the accused, said about two weeks ago Alyssa went missing in China and friends and family couldn't find her. Finally, the U.S. embassy found her detained in Zhenjiang, China.
The Petersen's believe that Alyssa was unlawfully detained. They said Alyssa has been unable to communicate with her family and said she has been kept from acquiring a lawyer during her detention in China.
The family gave some insight into Petersen's living conditions on their GoFundMe page.
"We received information that she is doing okay, She wakes up when told, she goes to sleep when told," according to the GoFundMe page. "She spends her day in a jail cell or walking in a circle counting steps. She cannot have any contact with anyone outside of a consulate officer who can visit once a month and a lawyer."
Hannah Petersen said her family has a lawyer headed to meet with Alyssa and learn more about her charges and what can be done.
The family is concerned that this may turn into a lengthy ordeal.
“We’re feeling pretty hopeful and very thankful for the help that has been given to us,” Hannah Petersen said. “People have come out and helped us with any contacts (that they have) and financial wise anything helps. We know China and the Chinese people. My sister has loved them and put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into working with them. And we know that this will not impact her view or love for these people because they are wonderful.”
The Standard Journal will continue to update the public on the situation as more information becomes available.