Last week, the Chinese Embassy in Washington issued a lengthy travel alert, warning Chinese citizens of a laundry list of risks in traveling the United States, including expensive medical costs, “frequent ”shootings, robberies, and thefts, customs agents’ arbitrary practices, telecommunications fraud, and natural disasters.
“Public security in the United States is not good. Shootings, robberies, and theft are frequent,” the notice said. “Travellers in the United States should be alert to suspicious individuals around them, and avoid going out alone at night.”
Additionally, the Chinese Embassy advised travelers to prepare insurance in advance, since the U.S. medical and healthcare costs are very “expensive.”
The embassy also detailed the U.S. customs agents’ arbitrary practices toward foreigners, such as searches and inspections without a warrant. “If the traveler believes that the law enforcement officers have improper or discriminatory practices, please properly keep the relevant evidence and issue a complaint to their superiors,” the alert said.
As tensions between China and the United States on trade as well as security have been escalating recently, multiple news outlets thus explained that this alert was “politically motivated.”
At the regular press briefing on July 3, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said: “The summer holiday is the peak season for Chinese citizens to travel to and come from the United States. The Chinese Embassy and consulates are simply fulfilling their duties by issuing such travel alerts.”
Lu’s explanation is plausible to some degree. Every July marks the beginning of the two-month-long summer vacation for China’s students. Statistics also show that an increasing number of Chinese parents choose to bring their children to the United States for tourism or summer camps during this period.
Yet it’s worth mentioning that the timing of Beijing’s latest alert was consistent with the moves of the United States, as Washington has also been warning its citizens about the potential dangers of traveling in China in recent months, too.
Since January, the U.S. State Department has ranked China at a level 2 travel advisory, urging the U.S. citizens to “exercise increased caution in China due to the arbitrary enforcement of local laws and special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese nationals.”
“U.S. citizens visiting or residing in China have been arbitrarily interrogated or detained for reasons related to ‘state security,’” the U.S. travel alert said. “Security personnel have detained and/or deported U.S. citizens for sending private electronic messages critical of the Chinese government.”
In late April, this specific alert was sent out to U.S. citizens from the U.S. embassy in China again.
In late May, the U.S. embassy released another health alert that warned U.S. citizens in China of the potential for sonic attacks that cause symptoms of mild brain injury or concussion.