Travel to China – Possible Violations of Your Rights When Travelling to China
On 7 January, Chinese nationals residing abroad received a notice from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs not to travel to or leave China until further notice. The reason given was that China has implemented a new entry ban affecting all citizens of the PRC, including their spouses and children. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the new rules were intended to implement an “effective January 1 implementation,” which was promised during President Obama’s visit to China in November 2021. There have been conflicting interpretations regarding whether or not this measure is intended to rein in the activities of Chinese citizens abroad, or to prevent the spread of Chinese influence throughout the US. In either event, the Chinese Government has announced that it will enforce all of its laws, including its recently issued entry ban, on all citizens regardless of nationality. Accordingly, for anyone planning to travel to China or who has already traveled to China and wishes to apply for a Chinese visa, they are advised to follow the procedures laid forth by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The measures implemented by the Chinese Government in January are categorized as exit bans, rather than a ban on traveling to China. However, a recent report suggests that exitban had been implemented but has only been applied to specific individuals and locations. For instance, both Americans and foreigners traveling to Beijing are required to obtain a Chinese exit permit before departing. Similarly, American citizens who wish to travel to Shanghai are required to obtain a Chinese exit visa. If one does not comply, they can be fined up to $6,000 or imprisoned for up to five years. If one travels to Hong Kong, they need to obtain a local exit permit, and then must depart from Hong Kong after having obtained that visa.
The implementation of exit restrictions was met with criticism both from the US and from international human rights organizations. According to these groups, the restrictions impose on the right to freedom of movement and the right to privacy of individuals. International law strictly prohibits discrimination of individuals based on their national origin or their gender, sexual orientation, or religion. For instance, it is against the law to ban travelers from particular countries from travelling to China due to their nationality. The same principle is applied when it comes to gender discrimination.
There are also concerns regarding the handling of detained foreigners. Many fears have been raised over the prolonged detention of foreigners in China’s legal system. There have been several cases of wrongful convictions of foreigners, as well as summary executions of individuals accused of minor crimes. In January, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression visited China and expressed his alarm over the prevalence of corrective measures, including the use of force during police interrogations of citizens. He expressed his concern that these measures, which include the use of harsh prison sentences, might amount to torture and could amount to breaches of the right to privacy of those being investigated. Some rights defenders feel that the harshness of the punishments meted out to peaceful protesters, including the detention of peaceful protesters, is excessive and amounts to enforced disappearances.
Another major concern with regard to the treatment of foreign tourists in China is their access to foreign funds. A lack of access to banking accounts, loans and other financial institutions has created a serious problem for many Chinese people. Most of the time, they rely on relatives or friends to send them money from abroad. But in some instances, the lack of banking services has led to overdrafts and the repayment of loans taken in China. This again can result in a possible violation of the principles of Shanghai stock market law and exposes the Chinese authorities to a lawsuit from any aggrieved foreign investors.
There have been reports of systematic and widespread harassment of foreign nationals in China. The most common example of this is the frequent application of visas on tourists who do not have sufficient documents to support their claims of being stateless. According to Chinese law, all foreign nationals should have the right to live and work in the country without any restrictions. In practice, there have been no noticeable restrictions on the freedom of movement of Chinese citizens. But there have been cases where foreigners have been refused entry or been detained for unlawful reasons.
According to the State Department’s webpage on Travel to China, there are currently no visa restrictions on travelers originating from Canada. However, the same can be said for passengers travelling between Canada and the People’s Republic of China. There are no special visa requirements for tourists from Pakistan or Nigeria. Neither are there any restrictions on travellers traveling to Mexico, South America, or Taiwan.
On the other hand, there have been reports of violations of freedoms of expression and travel where foreign national traveling to China have been detained or barred from entering the country. For instance, in July 2021, a Canadian national was barred from visiting the Chinese consulate in Hong Kong after he failed to submit the necessary paperwork to the consulate. There have also been incursions against foreign nationals in the past fourteen days. One incident referred to involved a Canadian citizen being beaten in the city of Kaifeng. There were no reports of any violence reported in connection with foreign nationals travelling to China in the past fourteen days.