TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China has warned United States officials that it may detain American citizens in retaliation for the prosecution of Chinese scientists in the U.S. who allegedly lied about their links to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
The warnings are said to have been made repeatedly to multiple entities, including the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, wrote the paper, citing sources close to the matter. The U.S. State Department has yet to publicly address the reported threats.
In June, Chinese scientist Juan Tang (唐娟), a medical researcher at the University of California, was questioned by the FBI before taking refuge in the Chinese consulate in San Francisco. She was subsequently charged with visa fraud and making false statements when she emerged from the facility in July.
Currently, Tang is out on bail and awaiting trial. This incident as well as others involving Chinese researchers over the summer is said to have precipitated the forced closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, which led to the reciprocal shutting of the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, China.
The prosecution of alleged PLA scientists is said to have needled a Chinese leadership that views its military as beyond reproach. Tang hiding in the San Francisco consulate over the summer coincided with the commencement of threats to detain Americans in China, per the WSJ report.
On Sept. 14, the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for China with a reminder to Americans that “The PRC government arbitrarily enforces local laws, including by carrying out arbitrary and wrongful detentions and through the use of exit bans.”
The advisory also noted that detentions and exit bans are often used to “gain leverage over foreign governments.”
“In most cases,” the warning continued, “U.S. citizens only become aware of an exit ban when they attempt to depart the PRC, and there is no reliable mechanism or legal process to find out how long the ban might continue or to contest it in a court of law.”