US warns citizens of 'arbitrary detention' risk in China

US State Department says Americans in China may face ‘prolonged interrogation’ for sending messages critical of Beijing

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Relations between U.S. and China continue to deteriorate. 

Relations between U.S. and China continue to deteriorate.  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. State Department on Saturday (July 11) warned American citizens of a "heightened risk of arbitrary detention" in China due to heightened tensions between the two countries over issues such as the coronavirus pandemic, Hong Kong, and Beijing's human rights abuses against Uighurs in Xinjiang.

In a security alert issued to U.S. citizens in China on Saturday, the State Department advised Americans to "exercise increased caution" to avoid possible detention without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime. It said U.S. citizens could face "prolonged interrogations and extended detention" for "state security" reasons.

Without citing specific examples, the State Department pointed out that Chinese security personnel may "detain and/or deport" U.S. nationals for sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government. It added that individuals who are detained or arrested should ask prison officials to notify the U.S. embassy immediately.

The State Department did not explain what had prompted the alert, according to Reuters.

Since Beijing implemented the new national security law in Hong Kong, countries such as Taiwan, Australia, and Canada have warned their citizens of the risk of arbitrary detention on alleged national security grounds. Taiwanese authorities have referred to the new law as "opaque" and advised Taiwanese to reconsider traveling to the city or transferring in China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

Under the Hong Kong security law, Beijing is empowered to overrule Hong Kong's legal system and prohibit acts of secession and subversion, potentially silencing any opposition to the central government. Alarmingly, Article 38 of the legislation states the law applies to foreigners outside Hong Kong who are deemed to have endangered "China's national security."