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The advisory comes amid escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington. Photo: AP

Chinese told to raise safety awareness in US travel advisory

  • It comes a day after warning over increased visa delays and denials for students seeking to study in America
  • Tourists told to respond ‘actively and appropriately’ in light of US law enforcement agencies using methods to ‘harass’ travellers from China
Beijing issued a travel advisory for the United States on Tuesday amid heightened tensions between the countries, one day after warning about visa issues for students seeking to study in America.

China’s foreign ministry and its embassy in the US cautioned travellers to raise their safety awareness and respond “actively and appropriately” in light of US law enforcement agencies using methods, such as immigration checks and home interviews, to “harass” Chinese travellers.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism released a separate travel advisory urging Chinese to pay attention to safety when travelling to the US, citing frequent shootings, robberies and theft.

“Chinese tourists in the US should fully assess the risks of travelling to the US, keeping up to date with information about public security, laws and regulations, and conscientiously improve awareness to ensure safety,” the advisory said. Both alerts are valid until the end of the year.

The reminder comes as Beijing and Washington remain at an impasse over their months-long tariff war, with tensions extending beyond trade and technology to travel. It follows China’s official warning on Monday for Chinese students and scholars seeking to study overseas in the US, urging them to “raise their risk assessment” after reports about increased visa delays and denials in student applications.
Beijing said the travel alert was issued because US law enforcement had “troubled” Chinese visitors. Photo: Reuters

Last year, the number of Chinese visitors to the US declined for the first time in 15 years, down 5.7 per cent to 2.9 million, according to data from the US National Travel and Tourism Office. The country still represents the fifth-highest source of international tourists in the United States, accounting for around 12 per cent of overall tourism spending.

On the sidelines of the CAPA airline CEO conference in Seoul, China Southern Airlines senior vice-president Wu Guoxiang said the US-China trade war could affect the plans of Chinese travellers heading overseas.

“The market will adjust if there are some barriers, they can shift to other areas,” Wu said.

At a regular press briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said it had been necessary to issue the latest travel alert because US law enforcement had “troubled” Chinese visitors. The safety reminder showed “what a responsible government should do”, he said.

“China remains open to normal people-to-people exchanges, but such exchanges must be built on the basis of mutual respect,” he said.

Geng also said the education ministry’s warning to students was the result of restrictive US behaviour, including revoking some Chinese visas on espionage grounds, vilifying Confucius Institutes at US universities, and politicising educational exchanges with China.

A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Beijing rejected “the unfounded allegation of a widespread and baseless campaign to deny Chinese visas”, saying there were increasing cases of individuals being co-opted to conduct business for foreign governments in the United States.

“National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications,” the spokeswoman said. “Every visa decision is a national security decision, and every prospective traveller to the United States undergoes extensive security screening.”

As relations continue to deteriorate, the two countries have traded barbs this week over setbacks in their trade negotiations, with both sides blaming the other for talks falling apart. On Tuesday, China’s foreign ministry also hit back at a strong rebuke from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging Beijing “to make a full public accounting of those killed or missing” after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, on the 30th anniversary.

The US embassy in Beijing and consulates in other Chinese cities flew their flags at half-mast on Tuesday after US President Donald Trump’s order for all US embassies to do so, to mourn the deadly shooting at Virginia Beach last Friday in which 12 people died. It coincided with the sensitive political date in China, during which the government raised security in the Chinese capital, as it does not allow public commemorations of the crackdown.

China alerted tourists in July last year about travel to the US, raising concerns about shootings, robbery, theft, and high health care costs. The US has its own level 2 travel advisory for China, alerting its citizens about “arbitrary enforcement of local laws, as well as special restrictions on dual US-Chinese nationals”.

Additional reporting by Jun Mai and Danny Lee

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Beijing warns citizens of risks in travelling to US