ZHENGZHOU, China – An American woman checked out of a hotel in central China with her 5-year-old son Thursday night, saying she had resolved a custody standoff with her Chinese ex-husband after they spent nine days sequestered in a suite conducting delicate negotiations.
The case, which drew the attention of upper-level Chinese and American officials, had threatened to become a diplomatic dilemma less than a week before Chinese President Jiang Zemin travels to the United States.
Camille Colvin, 35, of New York City, left the Zhengzhou Sofitel 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 but said she would elaborate in Beijing on Friday.
"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, wearing jeans and a black sweatshirt. Her son seemed upbeat and stared at the news cameras as she spoke.
"We're down to the wire," she said.
Colvin's ex-husband, Guo Rui, took the boy 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. After Colvin and Griffin left, 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. "I took the child to assert my normal right to see my son. ... I really love this child."
Though the boy had already left, Guo called the resolution "an initial agreement."
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 Colvin's friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Police in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan, China's most populous province, said earlier that an agreement had been reached.
"The problem has now been solved through the consultation between the couple," said an officer at police headquarters in Zhengzhou. He wouldn't give his name but said the U.S. Embassy had assisted in resolving the dilemma.
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."
He said the standoff began Oct. 8 after Colvin traveled to Zhengzhou with her brother, went to Guo's family home, embraced the boy and had a confrontation with her ex-husband and his family, who demanded that Griffin stay with them.
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.
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.