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US tightens China travel advice. Will Australia follow?

January 8, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The US State Department has ramped up its travel advisory bulletin about China, raising the prospect that Australia may do the same.

China is Australia’s fastest growing inbound tourism market and largest contributor to international visitor spending in Australia.

US travel advisories (like those in Australia) come in four levels. In ascending order of severity, they advise travellers to the destinations concerned to:


  1. Exercise normal precautions
  2. Exercise increased caution
  3. Reconsider travel
  4. Do not travel

A new advisory issued by the US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, last Thursday (3 January 2019) ranks China at level number 2, “exercise increased caution”.

That’s one level higher than Australia’s view of China. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) ranks China overall at level 1: “Exercise normal safety precautions”. Australia advises its visitors to China to “exercise a high degree of caution” only if they travel to Tibet or Xinjiang.

The new US advisory goes further. Here it is:

Exercise increased caution in China due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws as well as special restrictions on dual US-Chinese nationals.

Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit US citizens from leaving China by using ‘exit bans,’ sometimes keeping US citizens in China for years. China uses exit bans coercively:

  • to compel US 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.

In most cases, US 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. US citizens under exit bans have been harassed and threatened.

US citizens may be detained without access to US consular services or information about their alleged crime. US citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention for reasons related to “state security.” Security personnel may detain and/or deport US citizens for sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government.

Extra security measures, such as security checks and increased levels of police presence, are common in the Xinjiang Uighur and Tibet Autonomous Regions. Authorities may impose curfews and travel restrictions on short notice.

China does not recognize dual nationality. US-Chinese citizens and US citizens of Chinese heritage may be subject to additional scrutiny and harassment, and China may prevent the US Embassy from providing consular services.

If you decide to travel to China:

  • Enter China on your US passport with a valid Chinese visa and keep it with you.
  • If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the US Embassy or the nearest consulate immediately.
  • If you plan to enter North Korea, read the North Korea Travel Advisory.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter. Follow the US Embassy on Twitter, WeChat, and Weibo.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Reports for China.
  • US citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist. 

THE US ADVISORY ON CHINA comes after China issued similar advice about travel to the USA. About six months ago, the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC warned its citizens about the dangers of travelling in America.

The statement, posted on the Embassy’s official website, warned Chinese visitors to the US that “shooting, robbery, and theft are frequent” and that tourists should “be alert to suspicious people around you.” Travellers were also advised to avoid going out alone at night.

Written by Peter Needham

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