As calendars flipped to a new year, the U.S Department of State released new travel advisories. Perhaps the recent travel warning receiving the most attention is the increased care advised for those planning a trip to China.
Now officially a Level 2 on the Travel Advisory Level scale, the United States government issued the warning as a result of China’s “arbitrary enforcement of local laws.” Additionally, the advisory urges dual U.S-Chinese nationals to exercise more caution than others as Chinese border officials have targeted them with “exit bans”. This an exceptionally tricky situation as China does not recognize dual nationality, which would restrict an American citizen’s access to consular services in the event of a detainment.
Levels of Travel Advisories
The U.S. State Department lists four levels of travel advisories. China’s advisory is at the second level, which states, “Exercise increased caution”. There are two levels above it, Level 3 “Reconsider Travel” and Level 4 which tells U.S. citizens “Do not travel”. Level 1 is the safest designation as it urges tourists to use the normal amount of precaution when traveling.
So, while the China advisory is not considered threatening enough to change travel plans, it is unique as the threat is orchestrated by the Chinese government and is virtually unpredictable.
The reason for this increase has been because of the previously mentioned “travel bans”. These travel bans are enforced by China as U.S. citizens attempt to leave China and restrict them from doing so. In some cases American citizens can be held in China for years.
China has been using these rerouted citizens to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties. Similarly, they have been a way to push U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations. The other major aim of these travel bans is specific towards dual citizens and their families as they try to “lure” individuals back to China from abroad.
In most instances, American travelers are only made aware of the travel ban enacted upon them when they attempt to leave China, at which point they are not allowed to and are not be told how long their ban may last. Many who are under a ban have reported harassment and threats from China as a part of their situation.
All tourists and dual citizens are strongly urged to enter China on their United States passport with a valid Chinese visa. While visiting, the passport and visa should be kept on their body.
Other Potential Hazards to U.S. Citizens
While the recent increase in exit bans have been worrisome and the main reason for an increase in China’s travel advisory status, other threats, some of which can occur in conjunction with the exit bans, continue to be worth heeding caution as well.
Chinese laws should be researched prior to arrival and observed vigorously — anyone detained is subject to “prolonged interrogations and extended detentions” as they can be seen as threats to state security. In many instances, any United States citizen placed in jail in China for an alleged crime will not have access to the U.S. consulate.
It is also strongly recommended that no-one ever send text messages or emails with content critical of the Chinese government while in China. Security personnel has been known to arrest or deport Americans who send messages of this kind.
While traveling in China there are also certain areas of the country to avoid, as while there, the odds of experiencing trouble with the Chinese government increases. The areas of Xinjiang Uighur and Tibet are prone to a much higher police presence and therefore more security checks. In these areas, it is also common for authorities to implement and change curfews and travel restrictions without warning. Additionally, Americans should avoid the area near China’s border with North Korea.
It should be noted that China’s travel advisory is not applicable to Hong Kong.
Other Places Receiving Increased Warnings
China is not the only country that saw their travel advisories increased, incredibly popular tourist destinations like the United Kingdom, Spain, Russia, Belgium, Italy, France, and the Netherlands have all seen their warnings increased to Level 2 due to fears of a pending terrorist attack. Myanmar also received a Level 2 designation for civil unrest. For more information on travel advisories and general travel safety, see the US Department of State website.