The State Department took a break from the federal government’s shutdown to warn people who are planning to visit China that they may never be able to return home. (Yes, China is basically the Hotel California now.)
In an alarming post, the State Department wrote that “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 so-called exit bans can be used 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.” If you have Chinese heritage you may be particularly subject to additional scrutiny, it adds.
China disagrees. On Friday Lu Kang, the spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said the State Department’s exit ban warning “cannot stand up to scrutiny.” According to the AP, he noted that 2.3 million Americans visited China between January and November 2018–which “far outnumbers the number of Chinese people visiting the U.S.”–and, presumably, the vast majority of them returned home. Lu also chided the United States for conducting “gratuitous inspections” and creating “obstacles for Chinese citizens entering the U.S.”
So are these travel warnings just another weapon in the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China? Maybe! But you may have to go to China and find out.