The Chinese government has threatened U.S officials with the detainment of American nationals over the Justice Department’s prosecution of Chinese military-affiliated scholars.
U.S government representatives received multiple warnings from China through numerous channels. Reports say warnings were also conveyed though the U.S embassy in Beijing.
Over the summer, the U.S began detaining Chinese scientists conducting research at American universities over allegations of them hiding their active duty statuses with the People’s Liberation Army from U.S immigration authorities.
Accusations made by U.S. officials say that Chinese diplomats were using these scientists as part of an intelligence-gathering scheme.
Following the arrests, China shut its Houston consulate down in July and withdrew remaining military scientists from the U.S.
A State Department spokesperson warns “U.S. citizens traveling to China about the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, in particular, the exit bans imposed on U.S. citizens.”
According to the spokesperson, on the State Department’s website, the agency cautions “U.S. citizens that business disputes, court orders to pay a settlement, or government investigations into both criminal and civil issues may result in an exit ban which will prohibit your departure from China until the issue is resolved.”
“Even individuals and their family members who are not directly involved, or even aware of these proceedings, can be subject to an exit ban,” the spokesperson continued.
Head of the Justice Department’s national security division, John Demers said: “We are aware that the Chinese government has, in other instances, detained American, Canadian and other individuals without legal basis to retaliate against lawful prosecutions and to exert pressure on their governments, with a callous disregard of the individuals involved.”
“If China wants to be seen as one of the world’s leading nations, it should respect the rule of law and stop taking hostages.” he added.
Moreover, on September 14, the State Department updated its travel advisories for China and Hong Kong , saying that it implores U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to these areas “due to COVID-19 and risk due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”
The September advisory also warned that Chinese government officials may detain citizens of other countries “to gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments.”
Craig Singleton, a former U.S. national security official said “Historically, these dust-ups were resolved behind closed doors to contain the diplomatic fallout and allow China to save face,”
“DOJ’s recent moves represent a full-on assault of one of China’s most revered institutions, the PLA,” Mr. Singleton continued. “It’s a real game-changer that could carry significant risk for both sides.”