BEIJING (Reuters) – The US Department of Foreign Affairs warned US citizens on Saturday to “increase caution” in China because of increased risk of arbitrary law enforcement including jail and a ban on leaving the country.
“US citizens can be detained without access to US consular services or information about their alleged crimes,” said the State Department in a security alert issued to their nationals in China, allowing US citizens to face “extended interrogation and extended detention” for reasons related to state security.
“Security personnel can imprison and / or deport US citizens for sending private electronic messages that are critical of the Chinese government,”
The security alert comes as bilateral tensions intensify over issues ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic, trade, the new Hong Kong security legislation and allegations of human rights violations against Uighurs in the Xinjiang region.
Washington and Beijing recently exchanged visa bans for each other’s officials, underscoring the deteriorating relations.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry could not immediately be reached for comment outside the opening hours on Saturday. Beijing on Wednesday called a similar warning from Australia about the risk of arbitrary detention in China “completely ridiculous and disinformation.”
Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Yew Lun Tian; writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Toby Chopra