U.S. Warns Travelers to China of Potential Arbitrary Detention After Huawei Incident

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou

The State Department issued a travel advisory warning of China preventing U.S. nationals from leaving the country on the heels of the PRC taking 13 Canadians hostage.

The detentions came after Canada arrested Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou for questioning by U.S. authorities regarding bank fraud linked to Iran sanctions violations. Meng owns two homes in Vancouver and was reportedly a permanent resident of the country from 2001-09. She was released on bail in mid-December and is electronically monitored.

The Canadian government says eight of its 13 seized citizens have been released. Three hostages have been publicly named: former diplomat Michael Kovrig, entrepreneur Michael Spavor and English teacher Sarah McIver.

PJM has asked the State Department how many U.S. citizens are held hostage by China, but not even a number was revealed as the government cited privacy concerns.

The State Department warned U.S. citizens on Thursday to "exercise increased caution in China due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws as well as special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese nationals."

"Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using ‘exit bans,’ sometimes keeping U.S. citizens in China for years," the advisory said. "China uses exit bans coercively to compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations, to lure individuals back to China from abroad, and to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties."

"In most cases, U.S. 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. U.S. citizens under exit bans have been harassed and threatened."

If detained by China, U.S. citizens may not have access to U.S. consular services or even be informed about their alleged crime.