China has warned its citizens studying in the United States of potential harassment as Washington tightens its scrutiny of them over espionage concerns.
“Recently there has been a sharp increase in cases in which the US law enforcement agencies carried out random investigations, nuisance or confiscation of personal belongings against Chinese students in the US,” the Chinese embassy in the US said in a brief notice on its website.
No specific cases were given, but the notice said Chinese students should raise their awareness and could seek help from the embassy and consulates if necessary.
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It is estimated that there are more than 370,000 Chinese students in the US, representing the country’s single largest foreign student population.
Some Chinese students have found themselves caught up in the escalating confrontations between Beijing and Washington. The Donald Trump administration has warned of potential national security threats posed by the students, especially those who work in science and technology fields and have links to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China’s military.
In a rare move that could further damage the already vulnerable ties, the US has abruptly ordered China to close its consulate in Houston.
David Stilwell, the top East Asia official at the US state department, on Wednesday accused the PLA of “sending students both overtly and otherwise to American universities to study things to advance their own warfare advantages”.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday the forced closure of the Houston consulate was illegal under international law and an example of aggression by the US that included “intimidating and interrogating Chinese students and confiscating their personal electrical devices, even detaining them without cause”.
In retaliation, Beijing is to close the US’ strategically important consulate in Chengdu, southwestern China, a source has told the South China Morning Post.
In May, the Trump administration announced a travel ban on students and researchers of graduate level or higher who had ties with Chinese military institutions.
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More from South China Morning Post:
- Beijing’s Houston consulate is ‘epicentre’ of theft of research by Chinese military, US diplomat says
- US indicts Chinese hackers on charges of targeting coronavirus vaccine data and defence secrets
This article Chinese students risk harassment by US law enforcement agencies, embassy says first appeared on South China Morning Post