Sat, Jan 05, 2019 - Page 7 News List

US warns of arbitrary action in China

EXIT BANS:US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that a travel advisory was to let people know about the risk of not being permitted to return from a trip to China

AFP, WASHINGTON

The US on Thursday warned its citizens that they could face arbitrary action by authorities when they visit China, following the detention of a number of Canadians.

Updating a travel advisory, the US Department of State maintained its previous guidance that Americans should “exercise increased caution” in China, but stopped short of discouraging visits.

While the language was largely the same as earlier, the department warned of “arbitrary enforcement of local laws,” sudden prohibitions on exiting the country and harassment of US citizens of Chinese heritage.

“In most cases, US citizens only become aware of the exit ban when they attempt to depart China and there is no method to find out how long the ban may continue,” it said.

“US citizens under exit bans have been harassed and threatened,” it said.

It also advised Americans to look out for last-minute security checks and curfews in Xinjiang and Tibet, two minority-dominated regions where Beijing has sought to impose strict control.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asked about the updated advisory in a televised interview, said the department wanted Americans to “understand the risk, but still travel there when it’s appropriate.”

“We wanted to let them know that there have been more risks from what China has done in terms of folks traveling there and not being permitted to return,” Pompeo told Fox News host Sean Hannity.

China has detained 13 Canadians since early last month when a senior executive of Chinese telecom giant Huawei was arrested in Vancouver on a US request for alleged violations of Washington’s sanctions on Iran, according to Ottawa.

Two of the arrests — of former diplomat Michael Kovrig and consultant Michael Spavor — were widely viewed as retaliation for the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), who is facing extradition to the US.

Meanwhile, Canada said that 13 of its citizens, including Kovrig and Spavor, have been detained in China since Meng was arrested.

“At least” eight of those 13 have since been released, a Canadian government statement said, without disclosing what charges if any had been laid.

Prior to Thursday’s statement, detention of only three Canadian citizens had been publicly disclosed.

The Canadian government has said several times it sees no explicit link between the arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, and the detentions of Canadian citizens.

However, Beijing-based Western diplomats and former Canadian diplomats have said they believe the detentions were a “tit-for-tat” reprisal by China.

Meng was released on a C$10 million (US$7.4 million) bail on Dec. 11 and is living in one of her two Vancouver homes as she fights extradition. The 46-year-old executive must wear an ankle monitor and stay at home from 11pm to 6am.

The 13 Canadians detained include Sarah McIver, a Canadian government official who declined to be identified, said on Thursday.

McIver, a teacher, has since been released and returned to Canada. Kovrig and Spavor remain in custody.

Canadian consular officials saw them once each in the middle of last month.

Overall, there are about 200 Canadians who have been detained in China for a variety of alleged infractions who continue to face ongoing legal proceedings.

“This number has remained relatively stable,” the official said.

In comparison, there are almost 900 Canadians in a similar situation in the US, the official said.

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