Australia warns of ‘arbitrary detention’ in China

Australia continues to advise its citizens not to travel to China. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SYDNEY (REUTERS, AFP) - Australia has warned its citizens they may be at risk of arbitrary detention in China, in an updated travel advisory.

The travel advice for China on Australia's Smart Traveller website includes the warning: "Authorities have detained foreigners because they're 'endangering national security."

On Tuesday (July 6), a new warning was added by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: "Australians may also be at risk of arbitrary detention."

Diplomatic relations between Australia and top trading partner China became frayed after Canberra called for an international inquiry into the source and spread of the coronavirus, which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Beijing subsequently imposed tariffs on Australian goods and warned Chinese tourists and students about visiting the country because of alleged racial harassment against Asians.

Last year China arrested Australian-Chinese writer Yang Hengjun, who was indicted earlier this year for espionage.

Australia continues to advise its citizens not to travel to China, and under coronavirus control measures, its citizens cannot leave Australia without an exemption granted by the Home Affairs department.

China's foreign ministry said in response that "foreigners in China have absolutely nothing to worry about as long as they abide by the law."

Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters that China hoped Australia would "remain objective and fair and do more to benefit the development of China-Australia relations".

Beijing has also recently imposed sweeping security legislation on Hong Kong that punishes what China defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with sentences up to life in prison.

Late on Monday, Hong Kong released additional details of the law, saying security forces had overriding authority to enter and search properties for evidence and to stop people from leaving the city.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week signalled his government may follow Britain in offering safe haven to Hong Kong citizens in response to the security law, and proposals would be considered by Cabinet soon.

Canada has also warned its citizens in Hong Kong they may be at risk of arbitrary detention and extradition to mainland China, and has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

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