Travel to China – Are Foreign Citizens Arrested While Doing Business Abroad?
For more than half a century, the U.S. State Department has consistently sought to travel to China under the pretext that such travel was in the best interests of both the two countries. However, recent developments indicate that the Chinese government is not too pleased with this arrangement. On Nov. 7, 2009 the State Department released a report detailing what it called the number of Chinese citizens who have been arbitrarily detained or deported. The report indicates that the State Department believes that many of these individuals were simply wrongfully accused of crimes that they did not commit. Many of those who have been detained have gone to China only to face wrongful convictions or charges, and then were illegally deprived of due process of law.
There are currently no laws in China that allow anyone to be arbitrarily detained. Additionally, the reasons given by the Chinese government for detaining individuals are blatantly disproportionate to the crimes that they have committed. The current situation in China is reminiscent of those suffered during the rule of the communist Chinese leadership in the 1950s. The U.S. State Department believes that the excessive amount of arrests, wrongful trials, and excessive use of force are being perpetrated against peaceful protesters, bloggers, and dissenters, all of whom are accused of engaging in expressions of non-violent protests or opposition.
According to the State Department, at least four Americans have been arbitrarily arrested while traveling outside of China. Two of those arrests took place within the Lufeng county in March. Robert Lee, an American citizen traveling on a business visa, was detained and questioned for ten hours by local police after he attempted to enter the disputed territory claimed by China. The U.S. Embassy in China has called for all American citizens who travel to China to be alert and report any difficulties while in the country.
On Jan. 9, authorities in China made widespread arrests and confiscations of property and properties belonging to foreign nationals. On that same day, Chinese state television broadcasted footage from a government property auction in which a large number of commercial properties were auctioned off to raise funds for projects in China. The announcement sparked widespread criticism from the United States, which had had economic sanctions against China for human rights abuses in the past. In response, the Chinese government issued statements saying that the actions were not arbitrary and did not take place in accordance with the law. The Chinese government has also threatened to impose more restrictive measures, including exit bans, on citizens traveling to and within the country.
According to the American Consulate in Beijing, at least five Americans traveling to China between April and July were detained in Beijing. One of those detained is freelance journalist Jason Zuckerman, who freelances for The Associated Press. He was detained along with his American wife and two other American passengers. The other passengers were not named.
On Thursday, the spokesperson for the ministry of foreign affairs released a statement saying that the confiscation of property and detentions of foreign nationals in China do not conform to the universal standards of China’s human rights behavior. The spokesperson characterized the cases as being “arbitrary.” Zuckerman is not the first person to be detained in Beijing. There have been several reports of foreigners being arbitrarily detained in China, including American journalist Peter Ferriss, who was detained after visiting China and reporting on its political environment.
There are many questions surrounding the case of Zuckerman. The minister’s spokesperson suggested that his detention was prompted by an issue regarding his articles regarding the ownership of property in China. The spokesperson did not provide additional details. It appears that Zuckerman was simply trying to bring attention to the controversial policies of the Chinese government when he was seized.
China has a unique system of law enforcement and has regularly used harsh anti-counterfeit mechanisms to prevent citizens from accessing foreign owned businesses and property. There have been widespread reports of the harassment of Chinese authorities aimed at discouraging citizens from leaving the country for personal or business disputes. In addition to the exit bans, China has placed a series of restrictions on citizens traveling abroad.