The Australian government has issued a provocative new warning sure to damage already rocky and worsening relations with Beijing, updating travel advice for China telling Aussies they risk ‘arbitrary detention’ while traveling through the communist-run country.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs revised the travel advice on Tuesday with this new phrase:
“Authorities have detained foreigners because they’re ‘endangering national security’. Australians may also be at risk of arbitrary detention.”
Similar to the situation with the Trump administration, there’s been a developing tit-for-tat leveling of accusations between Australia and China, including last week’s charge from Beijing that Australia is waging an “espionage offensive”.
Already there had been travel warnings related to coronavirus restrictions when for months prior as authorities in China struggled to get the pandemic under control, but this latest official travel guidance for Aussies is somewhat unprecedented given its politically charged nature.
It will also no doubt hurt the Chinese tourism industry, given Australians are among the most frequent foreign travelers when it comes to southeast Asia.
The move could also be linked to the new Hong Kong national security law which went into effect July 1st, and has since been roundly condemned by the US, UK, and European countries. Australian media has cited Feng Chongyi, an Associate Professor in China Studies at the University of Technology Sydney, to explain of the travel update:
“I think it is a precautional response given that the Hong Kong version of the National Security Law has been so broad and vague,” he said.
“In a sense that it subjects almost everyone into arbitrary detention,” he added according to Australia’s ABC. Local media has also warned of a “hostage diplomacy” type scenario in which China could detain Australian citizens on trumped up charges in order to gain leverage in any negotiations.