State Department Warns Americans Against Traveling to Hong Kong Over 'Interrogation' Concerns

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday warned Americans that traveling to mainland China or Hong Kong may be dangerous, cautioning U.S. citizens of "arbitrary detention" and interrogations by Communist Party–backed police.

This week's advisory from Washington says American travelers may be subjected to "exit bans," even in Hong Kong, where U.S. expatriates were long considered outside the legal grasp of Beijing. But the Chinese Communist Party began enforcing strict new national security laws in Hong Kong back in June, prompting punitive actions from the Trump administration. The Tuesday advisory is perhaps the most blunt warning yet to Americans who are considering traveling to Hong Kong or mainland China. The advisory does not mention any COVID-19 pandemic concerns.

The United Kingdom also issued an advisory to its citizens this week about visits to Hong Kong, a former colony controlled by the British for decades until 1997. The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office warned U.K. citizens of "arbitrary detention, including of British nationals."

Americans visiting Hong Kong are "strongly cautioned to be aware of their surroundings and avoid demonstrations," such as the pro-democracy protests that have been met with violence from police crackdowns over the past year. Any U.S. citizen who has publicly criticized China—on social media or otherwise—is at a "heightened risk of arrest, detention, expulsion, or prosecution."

"U.S. citizens traveling or residing in China or Hong Kong, may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime. U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention without due process of law," reads the State Department advisory.

The U.S. and several other Western nations have recently suspended extradition treaties with Hong Kong following the passage of the June national security laws. The new Beijing-backed laws have broadly criminalized any activity which can be viewed as "subversion, secession and collusion" with foreign provocateurs. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has chastised China for months over "human rights abuses," saying the country's detention of students in pro-democracy protests "is at odds with American values."

Chinese officials responded to the State Department's Tuesday advisory by accusing the Trump administration of not "fully respect[ing] the facts." Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Tuesday described the State Department advisory as "unwarranted political manipulation" in an interview with Associated Press reporters. He added that China has always upheld the safety and legal rights of foreigners entering the country.

"China has always protected the safety and legal rights of foreigners in China in accordance with law. China is one of the safest countries in the world," Wang told AP reporters. "Of course, foreigners in China also have an obligation to abide by Chinese laws."

The State Department advisory is only the latest escalation of tensions between the two countries, which have gone tit-for-tat in punitive trade sanctions as well as public criticisms from officials in each government. The U.S. recently ended special trade and commercial privileges for Hong Kong, and critical views of China are now a mainstream political talking point for Republicans.

"While Democrats ignore the threat from China, Republicans will take it head on," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Tuesday, urging U.S. voters to put more GOP members in the House in the upcoming November elections.

Newsweek reached out to both the State Department and Chinese envoy officials in Washington Tuesday morning for additional remarks.

china americans travel advisory detention
The State Department on Tuesday warned Americans that traveling to mainland China or Hong Kong may be potentially dangerous, cautioning U.S. citizens of "arbitrary detention" and interrogations by Communist Party-backed police. FENG LI / Staff/Getty Images