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China warns its citizens of police harassment, crime in US

Beijing

CHINA on Tuesday issued a pair of travel alerts to its citizens going to the United States, warning them of police harassment and crime as tensions soar between the global powers.

The world's two largest economies have been locked in a protracted trade war, and any major drop in Chinese tourism to the US could cost billions to the US economy.

While it did not threaten to curb tours to the US, China has used tourism as a weapon during previous diplomatic rows with South Korea, Japan and the Philippines.

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Tuesday's warnings were issued as China also angrily hit back at US criticism of its human rights record on the 30th anniversary of the brutal crackdown on the Tiananmen protests, adding to tensions.

The foreign ministry said US law enforcement agencies have "repeatedly" used methods such as immigration and on-site interviews to "harass" Chinese citizens in the US.

It urged Chinese nationals and Chinese-funded institutions in the US to be cautious and "increase awareness and strengthen preventive measures".

"This is a response to the circumstances, China would not have done this if it was unnecessary," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing. "At the same time, I want to emphasise China holds an open attitude towards normal people-to-people exchanges and contacts between our two countries, but such exchanges and contact must be based on mutual respect."

A separate travel warning by China's culture and tourism ministry warned: "Recently, shootings, robberies and thefts have occurred frequently in the United States."

It urged Chinese tourists to "fully assess the risk" and "improve their awareness of safety and security".

Three million Chinese visited the US last year, down from 3.2 million in 2017, according to the US National Travel and Tourism Office. They represent the fifth-largest group of foreign visitors, spending US$36.4 billion last year. AFP