US warns citizens of 'heightened risks of arbitrary detention' in China

WION Web Team Washington, United States Jul 11, 2020, 08.53 PM(IST)

File photo: US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping. Photograph:( Reuters )

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The security alert comes as bilateral tensions intensify over issues ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic, trade, the new Hong Kong security law and allegations of human rights violations against Uighurs in the Xinjiang region.

The United States on Saturday warned citizens of "heightened risk of arbitrary detention" in China as tensions between Beijing and Washington soared over issues including Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet. 

''US citizens may be detained without access to US. consular services or information about their alleged crime,'' the State Department said in a security alert issued to its citizens in China, adding that US citizens may face ''prolonged interrogations and extended detention'' for reasons related to state security.

Also read: Australia warns citizens against 'arbitrary detention' risk in China

The State Department said Chinese authorities may also impose exit bans as part of "arbitrary enforcement of local laws for purposes other than maintaining law and order".

''Security personnel may detain and/or deport US citizens for sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government,'' it added, without citing specific examples. The state department also did not say what prompted the security alert.

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The security alert comes as bilateral tensions intensify over issues ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic, trade, the new Hong Kong security law and allegations of human rights violations against Uighurs in the Xinjiang region.

Beijing and Washington have traded barbs and sanctions on a slew of issues in recent months, including the coronavirus pandemic and Chinese policies in the far west regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, with Chinese authorities threatening retaliation this week for US sanctions on Chinese officials. 

A controversial security law pushed on Hong Kong by China's central government in June has also caused international concern over the wording of the legislation, which bans subversive acts and speech against the Chinese government made anywhere in the world.

Australia and Canada have also issued travel warnings over fears of arbitrary detention by Beijing.

Last year China arrested Australian-Chinese writer Yang Hengjun, who was indicted earlier this year for espionage.

China has also arrested two Canadians after Canada detained a high-profile executive of Chinese telecom giant Huawei in late 2018.