The U.S. State Department has updated its travel warning for Americans travelling to and in China, urging them to "exercise increased caution due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws as well as special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese nationals."
The U.S. State Department's "Level 2" warning, which was first issued in 2018, noted that Chinese authorities have "exit bans" to prevent U.S. citizens from leaving China, sometimes "for years."
"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," the warning said.
The updated travel warning was issued amid increased tensions between the U.S. and China over ongoing trade disputes, as well as the December 1 2018 arrest of Huawei ‘s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.
Level 2 travel warnings are a step above Level 1 warnings, which urge travelers to "exercise normal precautions." The more serious warnings are Level 3, or "Reconsider travel," and finally Level 4, "Do not travel."
The warning comes as two Canadian citizens remain in detention in China. Separately, three US citizens were accused of committing "economic crimes" and barred from leaving China in November.
On Thursday, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department revealed that 13 Canadians have been detained in China since December 1 2018, which is when Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver at US’s request. Eight of them have since been released.
China has been insisting these detentions are not connected to Meng Wanzhou’s arrest but the string of arrests of Canadians and Americans coincide with her detention in Canada.
Beijing has also defended its decision to bar the three US citizens from leaving the country in November. A foreign ministry spokesman told reporters that they "all have... valid identity documents as Chinese citizens" and are "suspected of having committed economic crimes".