Foreigners in China Face Harassment, Detention

Foreigners in China Face Harassment, Detention

Amid ongoing tensions over trade and other issues between China and several countries, a number of foreigners living in China have been detained or otherwise threatened in recent weeks. Sixteen foreign teachers and students, including four Britons, were detained in a drug bust in Xuzhou, Jiangsu, Lily Kuo reports for the Guardian:

The four Britons were among a group of foreigners arrested in a drugs raid in the city of Xuzhou in the eastern province of Jiangsu on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the embassy in Beijing said on Friday.

Police in Xuzhou said they had acted on a tip and arrested 19 people whose urine tested positive for drug use. Among them were 16 foreigners, all teachers or students, the police said in a statement.

“We are in contact with the Chinese authorities following the arrest of four British people in Jiangsu province and are providing consular assistance,” said the spokeswoman for the embassy. She said the embassy could not specify whether the arrests of the four Britons were related to the drugs case.

Relations between the UK and China have become strained in recent weeks over mass protests in Hong Kong, a former British colony that was handed back to Chinese control in 1997. [Source]

The Hong Kong protests were themselves sparked by fears that proposed extradition changes could put Hong Kongers at greater risk of being caught up in the mainland’s capricious justice system.

In a recent post at China Law Blog, titled “Do NOT Teach English in China and Why EVERYONE Should Read This,” Dan Harris noted that he had seen a marked increase in legal problems for foreign teachers in China, notably drug possession, visa issues, and a failure to get paid. In the last three months, he writes, “I have seen at least a ten-fold increase in prison, visa and payment problems for teachers from China (and nowhere else in the world).”

A Canadian citizen was reportedly detained last week in Yantai, Shandong as part of another alleged drug case. Earlier this spring, two Canadian citizens were sentenced to death in China in separate drug cases. Jane Perlez reports for The New York Times on the most recent case:

The person, who was not identified by the Canadians, was arrested this past week in the eastern Chinese city of Yantai, according to Global Affairs Canada, the country’s foreign ministry. The Canadian being held in custody has received consular services, the ministry said on Saturday.

The two countries have been at odds since December, when China arrested two Canadians — a former diplomat and a businessman — who were later charged with espionage.

Their arrests are believed to have been in retaliation for the arrest by Canada that same month of a senior executive at Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications giant that the United States has declared a security threat. Chinese courts have also sentenced two other Canadians to death on drug-related charges. [Source]

and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians detained in December, have been charged with gathering state secrets and are being held in a detention center, where Kovrig had his reading glasses taken away. Kovrig received a consular visit last week, but few details were reported about his condition. Their detentions have been widely viewed as being retaliation for the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada. Several Canadians were reportedly detained after Meng’s arrest.  From Robert Fife at the Globe and Mail:

The confiscation is the latest move by Chinese authorities against Mr. Kovrig and fellow Canadian, Michael Spavor, who are now in their seventh month of detention. The two men were moved in early June from solitary confinement to a detention centre, which is more akin to a jail, after being formally charged with stealing state secrets. But they are still kept in rooms where the lights are on 24 hours a day and they continue to face interrogations, according to two sources to whom The Globe and Mail granted anonymity so they could speak frankly about the difficulties facing the Canadians.

The two men have been prevented from seeing family or lawyers but have been granted monthly, 30-minute consular meetings.

Last week, China also increased economic pressure on Ottawa when it suspended all meat exports from Canada. [Source]

These and other recent cases have contributed to a climate of fear for American business executives and others who travel or work in China and are facing increasing harassment. Paul Mozur, Alexandra Stevenson and Edward Wong report for The New York Times:

Business executives, Washington officials and other frequent visitors to China who were interviewed by The New York Times expressed increasing alarm about the Chinese authorities’ harassment of Americans by holding them for questioning and preventing them from leaving the country.

They worry that trade tensions between Washington and Beijing could turn businesspeople and former officials into potential targets. Some companies are reviewing or beefing up their plans in case one of their employees faces problems, three people said. Many of the more than a dozen people interviewed by The Times asked for anonymity because they feared reprisals from the Chinese authorities.

[…] In early June, a Chinese-American executive at Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by the conservative billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, was told he could not leave the immediate vicinity of his hotel in southern China, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. He was then interrogated for multiple days, with the discussion hitting on the trade war and souring relations between the United States and China.

While the authorities told the man that he would not be allowed to leave China, they did not take his passport. After the State Department intervened, tensions subsided and he was able to fly out of the country, the people added. [Source]

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