Americans who have trips planned to China should reconsider going there because they would be putting themselves at risk of “arbitrary” law enforcement and unjustified arrest, including possible espionage charges for merely “conducting research” of publicly available information, the US State Department has claimed in a new travel advisory.
The Chinese authorities “appear to have broad discretion to deem a wide range of documents, data, statistics or materials as state secrets and to detain and prosecute foreign nationals for alleged espionage,” the department said in its updated advisory. “Security personnel could detain US citizens or subject them to prosecution for conducting research or accessing publicly available material inside the PRC.”
Americans traveling or living in China could find themselves detained, subjected to interrogation, and denied information about the allegations against them while unable to access consular services, according to the advisory. The department claimed that Beijijng “arbitrarily enforces local laws, including issuing exit bans on US citizens and citizens of other countries, without fair and transparent process under the law.”
The advisory recommended that Americans “keep a low profile,” avoid being near protests, and avoid taking pictures of police or demonstrators without permission. The department warned, too, that US citizens could be detained or expelled for sending electronic messages critical of the Chinese government. Participating in demonstrations can result in criminal charges.
Beijing has responded angrily to Washington’s past travel advisories, arguing that the fact it receives millions of American visitors each year – far outnumbering the number of Chinese citizens visiting the US – “speaks volumes for the security conditions in China.” China issued a warning of its own in June 2019, telling citizens that frequent shootings, robberies and thefts made travel to the US risky. The Chinese government also has warned of anti-Asian discrimination in the US.