Americans in China are being warned by the U.S. State Department to exercise “increased caution,” due to an elevated risk of arbitrary law enforcement, including detention and bans on exiting the country.
The security alert, issued on July 11 by the U.S. Embassy in China, said U.S. citizens “may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime.” It added that Americans may be subject 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 PRC [People’s Republic of China] government,” the alert said. It didn’t provide specific examples.
The department didn’t say what prompted the notice.
The move comes amid deteriorating relations between Washington and Beijing as the Trump administration steps up its actions against the communist regime over a range of issues, from its coverup of the CCP virus outbreak to its tightening control over Hong Kong. Australia issued a similar warning this week for travelers to China.
Earlier this week, the United States announced sanctions on several Chinese officials, including a high-ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party involved in rights abuses against ethnic minorities in the region of Xinjiang. An estimated more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims and other Muslim minorities are detained in Xinjiang, as part of the regime’s purported clampdown on what it calls “extremism.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also said this week the administration is considering banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok. U.S. lawmakers have raised national security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data, citing Chinese laws that require domestic companies “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”
Last month, the regime formally charged two Canadians with spying, more than 18 months after the men were initially detained. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained in December 2018, in a move widely viewed as retaliation for Canada’s arrest of top Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on an extradition request from the United States.
Federal prosecutors accuse Meng of lying to banks, causing them to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The Canadian government has repeatedly described the detention of Kovrig and Spavor as “arbitrary.” The pair have been reportedly interrogated by Chinese officials for up to eight hours a day, held in poor conditions, and denied outside contact.
The men also haven’t been allowed to see their lawyers, and neither has been seen by Canadian consular officials, in person or virtually, since January.
Reuters contributed to this report.