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Saturday, April 20, 2024

US Warns Citizens Against China Travel Amid Risk Of Wrongful Detention

The State Department has elevated its travel advisory for the People’s Republic of China to warn Americans about the threat of arbitrary enforcement of laws and wrongful detention. A spokesperson explained that because the Chinese government “continues to engage in this practice” of wrongful detention, the travel advisory has been updated to advise US citizens to reconsider travel to Mainland China. A previous advisory in late June and a separate one issued in March listed the country as a “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” destination due to the risk of ‘arbitrary enforcement of local laws.’

The upgraded travel advisory comes after China sentenced a 78-year-old American to life in prison on spying charges last month and passed new laws threatening strict action against foreign individuals or businesses seen as a threat to the regime. Those changes have sent a chill to the business community and caused companies to close.

According to the advisory, the Chinese government arbitrarily enforces local laws and often fails to provide a fair and transparent process for US citizens subjected to detention. It also warns travelers to beware of exit bans, which restrict the ability of a person to leave the country once they have entered its borders. The US says the country uses those to coerce people into participating in government investigations, pressure family members of a restricted individual to return from abroad, or gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments.

Affected travelers will only find out they have been subject to an exit ban when they attempt to leave the country, and in some cases can be stuck in limbo for years. The State Department also urges US citizens to be wary of the country’s “detention practices that include ill-treatment, mistreatment, and incommunicado detention.”

The department says the country continues to conduct aggressive surveillance against foreigners. It has also increased its scrutiny of the operations of US and third-country firms — including professional service and due diligence firms — that operate in China. It believes Chinese officials have broad discretion to deem a wide range of documents, data, and statistics as state secrets that can be used to prosecute foreigners on allegations of espionage.

The advisory also urges US citizens to remain aware of other potential risks, including censorship and restrictions on freedom of expression. It recommends that they avoid public protests and monitor the media and social media for information about human rights abuses in the country. They should also be mindful that they could be targeted for their religious or political beliefs because of their work with regional NGOs or advocacy for a US-based client. The department also urged US citizens to keep up with the work of the National Committee on US-China Relations, which publishes regular prisoner updates and advocates for wrongfully detained Americans.

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