China: We're Ready to Start Detaining Americans

'It's a real game-changer'
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2020 2:30 PM CDT
China: We're Ready to Start Detaining Americans
Cameras are installed in the helmets of riot police on China's National Day in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Chinese officials say they're ready for a dangerous game of tit-for-tat, the Wall Street Journal reports. They're telling Washington that China may round up US nationals there unless charges against Chinese military-affiliated scholars in America are dropped. The warnings, sent through several channels—including Beijing's US Embassy—began this summer after Chinese scientists were arrested in America and accused of hiding their active-duty standing with the People's Liberation Army. Asked for a response, the State Department said only that US citizens in China could face various legal hassles that "will prohibit your departure from China until the issue is resolved." The department has also warned US travelers to avoid China, which detains people for "leverage" purposes, per Reuters.

China did indict two Canadians in June on espionage charges—a move widely interpreted as revenge for Canada's arrest of a Chinese official at Huawei Technologies in connection with a US extradition request. America has also clashed with China over tariffs, alleged Chinese hacking, and Beijing's rising military presence in the South China Sea. So why now? Former US officials say the scientists' arrests were a public embarrassment for China. "Historically, these dust-ups were resolved behind closed doors to contain the diplomatic fallout and allow China to save face," one tells the Journal. "DOJ's recent moves represent a full-on assault of one of China’s most revered institutions, the PLA. It's a real game-changer that could carry significant risk for both sides." (More China stories.)

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