China has threatened US officials that it may detain American citizens for visiting Taiwan, a region that Beijing calls a renegade province.
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According to reports in the Wall Street Journal, Beijing could apprehend US citizens in retaliation for the prosecution of Chinese scientists in the U.S. who lied about their ties with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
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 threats.
In June, Chinese scientist Juan Tang, a medical researcher at the University of California, was investigated by the FBI before taking refuge in the Chinese consulate in San Francisco. She was consequently charged with visa fraud and making deceptive statements when she emerged from the facility in July.
Currently, Tang is out on bail and awaiting her trial. This incident as well as others involving Chinese researchers over the summer is said to have accelerated the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, which led to the reciprocal shutting of the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, China.
Tang hiding in the San Francisco consulate over the summer coincided with the threats to apprehend US citizens in China, the WSJ reported.
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.”