The U.S. State Department recommended “increased caution” on Thursday for Americans traveling to China. It warned about “arbitrary enforcement of local laws as well as special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese nationals” and the use of “exit bans” to effectively kidnap U.S. citizens.
The State Department said China uses exit bans to “compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations, to lure individuals back to China from abroad, and to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.”
The advisory noted that China can hide exit bans from U.S. citizens until they attempt to leave China, the bans can last for unspecified durations that run into years, and those facing exit bans have been “harassed and threatened.”
“U.S. citizens may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime. U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention for reasons related to ‘state security.’ Security personnel may detain and/or deport U.S. citizens for sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government,” the State Department said.
Additional caution was urged for Americans visiting restless areas with an extremely heavy Chinese security presence, such as Tibet and Xinjiang province, home of the oppressed Uighur Muslims.
“China does not recognize dual nationality. U.S.-Chinese citizens and U.S. citizens of Chinese heritage may be subject to additional scrutiny and harassment, and China may prevent the U.S. Embassy from providing consular services,” the advisory noted.
The State Department has reportedly been considering a higher advisory level for China ever since the Chinese began detaining Canadian citizens in apparent retaliation for the arrest of Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou in mid-December. China’s prosecutor general made it clear on Thursday that two of the Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, will not be released.