China warns citizens over risks of travelling to US

US law enforcement ‘repeatedly harassing’ citizens, says Chinese government

Chinese tourists pose for photographs at the Rockefeller Center in New York.  Photograph: Kathy Willens/AP

Chinese tourists pose for photographs at the Rockefeller Center in New York. Photograph: Kathy Willens/AP

 

The Chinese government has warned its citizens over the risks of travelling to the US, accusing US law enforcement of “repeatedly harassing” them in a further escalation the diplomatic crisis between the two powers.

“Recently, US law enforcement agencies have repeatedly harassed Chinese nationals travelling to the US through border interrogations, drop-in visits and various other means,” wrote China’s ministry of foreign affairs on its official social media feed on Tuesday.

The same day, the ministry of culture and tourism issued a travel warning that “recently, gun shootings, robberies and thefts have occurred frequently in the United States”, according to state media.

The US and China are in the midst of an escalating war over trade that has spilled into broader political problems. Last month, the US effectively banned major suppliers from exporting to China’s “national champion” tech giant Huawei, and Beijing responded by announcing it would draw up a blacklist of US companies.

Misinterpretation

The travel warnings came in the wake of a shooting in Virginia Beach on Friday that killed 12 people, according to US media reports. US embassies and consulates in China flew their flags at half-mast, a gesture that was misinterpreted by some media as commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, which fell on Tuesday.

On Monday, Beijing warned Chinese students and scholars that they face ever-higher obstacles in getting US visas, while also telling parents to carefully assess the risks of visiting the US.

Executives at major Chinese companies, as well as academics, have been blocked from visiting the US in recent months because of increased visa difficulties.

A year ago, China’s ministry of foreign affairs issued a detailed travel warning, referencing “expensive” medical care and the risk of gun crime.

In 2018, 3 million Chinese nationals visited the US and spent $36.4 billion (€32.3 billion), making China the US’s biggest source of travel exports and the fifth-biggest source of tourists, according to the US National Travel and Tourism Office.

Last December, following the detention of two Canadian nationals by Chinese police, the US considered warning its citizens about increased risks when travelling to China. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig, one of the two detained, continues to be prevented from accessing legal representation. The two Canadians were formally charged last month with gathering state secrets.

The detention of the two Canadians came shortly after Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver pending extradition to the US. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019