Trump administration warns travelers of ‘arbitrary detention’ in China, Hong Kong

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The U.S. is warning against travel to mainland China and Hong Kong, citing a risk of “arbitrary detention” and “arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”  

A new State Department advisory says that China imposes “arbitrary detention and exit bans” to compel cooperation with government investigations, pressure travelers’ family members to return to China from abroad and “gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments.” 

“U.S. citizens traveling or residing in the [People’s Republic of China] or 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,” the advisory states.

The notice also says that China “unilaterally and arbitrarily exercises police and security power in Hong Kong,” adding that U.S. citizens are “strongly cautioned to be aware of their surroundings and avoid demonstrations” while in Hong Kong.  

Tensions between Washington and Beijing are strained amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and in the wake of a national security law imposed on Hong Kong that has been met with punitive actions from the U.S. and around the globe.

The State Department also lowered its advisory for China from a level four, which signals “Do not travel,” to a level three, which signals “reconsider travel.”  

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. should “fully respect the facts and should not engage in unwarranted political manipulation,” The Associated Press reported.

“China has always protected the safety and legal rights of foreigners in China in accordance with law. China is one of the safest countries in the world,” Wang said. “Of course, foreigners in China also have an obligation to abide by Chinese laws.”

The Trump administration last month ended three key bilateral agreements with Hong Kong in response to the imposition of the Chinese national security law on the territory. The moves were part of an executive order that President Trump signed earlier this year ending America’s special relationship with Hong Kong as separate from Beijing’s ruling Chinese Communist Party.  

The president has also regularly criticized China over its handling of the early coronavirus pandemic after the virus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

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