A renewal of US travel advisory of January 2018 brought a stern warning for American citizens traveling to China. On Thursday, the State Department issued a warning that stated Americans could possibly face arbitrary detention in China.
The rights of foreign nationals in China have come under the spotlight on the basis of various grounds. One of them is the straining relationship between the United States and China due to escalated trade disputes.
The soaring concern of people over the American family — Sandra Han and her two adult children, Victor and Cynthia Liu — that has been barred from leaving the country, is also responsible for the Thursday warning.
The family is forbidden from leaving China, and is being used in the investigation of Han’s husband, Liu Changming, who has been accused of participating in a $1.4 billion fraud case by the country.
The US travel advisory for China is also prompted by the recent arrest of the top Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada at the request of America, raising uncertainties of potential retaliatory arrests of Americans or Canadians in China.
Last month, Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, was arrested in Vancouver, a move that obliquely induced the detention of several Canadian nationals in China.
The advisory issued urged the US citizens to “exercise increased caution in China” considering the so-called “exit bans,” which is a legal tool used by the Chinese authorities to ban a person from leaving the country.
The State Department highlighted that people subjected to such a ban become aware of its existence only when they try to leave China. It said that there is no method for these people to find out when the ban is lifted.
The US travel advisory also warned that American citizens under the ban have been “harassed and threatened” and they “may be detained without access to US consular services or information about their alleged crime.” It stated that they could also face “prolonged interrogations and extended detention for reasons related to ‘state security’.”
While the US travel advisory is an outcome of different issues, it is majorly influenced by Wanzhou’s arrest, after which China has been taking several implicit retaliatory moves.
On Thursday, Canada’s leading newspaper, The Globe and Mail, also reported that 13 Canadians have been detained by China since Wanzhou’s arrest. The number of detainees previously was reportedly three, two of which — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — were arrested for unspecified reasons of national security.
Although China has assured that there is no connection between the two matters, many have believed that the arrests of Canadians were vindictive. The State Department also said that China had used the exit bans to press foreign nationals to resolve civil disputes or to cooperate with police investigations.
Considering the mounting number of detentions of Canadians in China, the US travel advisory was crucial for the security of American citizens. While the catastrophe caused by Wanzhou’s arrest is still evident, the warning was a necessary move to alert and secure Americans from China’s retaliatory detentions.
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