The U.S. State Department updated its travel advisory for Hong Kong, merging it with its advisory regarding China, on Thursday, warning that visitors may face arbitrary arrest and other human rights violations.
The advisory issued on Thursday places Hong Kong alongside China with a Level 3 travel warning, the second-highest tier behind “do not travel.” It urges visitors to “reconsider travel” to both China and Hong Kong “due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”
The advisory described Hong Kong as under the control of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), a nation that “arbitrarily enforces local laws, including by carrying out arbitrary and wrongful detentions and through the use of exit bans on U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries without due process of law.”
“In most cases, U.S. citizens only become aware of an exit ban when they attempt to depart the PRC, and there is no reliable mechanism or legal process to find out how long the ban might continue or to contest it in a court of law,” the warning read.
U.S. citizens traveling or residing in the PRC, including Hong Kong, 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 without due process of law.
Foreigners in the PRC, including but not limited to businesspeople, former foreign government personnel, and journalists from Western countries, have been arbitrarily interrogated and detained by PRC officials for alleged violations of PRC national security laws. The PRC has also threatened, interrogated, detained, and expelled U.S. citizens living and working in the PRC.
The warning comes months after China illegally imposed a Beijing-drafted “national security law” on Hong Kong that effectively criminalizes any form of political dissidence against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Under the legislation, those found guilty of acts such as “terrorism,” “foreign interference,” “secession,” and “subversion of state power” face a minimum of ten years in prison.
The law represents the most serious violation of the “One Country, Two Systems” agreement signed by Beijing and the United Kingdom in 1997, which intended to preserve Hong Kong’s way of life and provide it with total autonomy while also becoming part of the Chinese state. It has led to the U.S. imposing sanctions against various senior Chinese officials, including Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam. In May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified to Congress that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China, explaining that “no reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.”