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China slams US restrictions on Chinese diplomats as ‘groundless’

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China on Thursday slammed as “groundless” a US decision to order Chinese diplomats to notify the State Department before meeting with local officials, in the latest spat to strain bilateral relations.

Washington — which called the move “reciprocal” — announced the decision Wednesday in response to the inability of US diplomats to meet with a range of Chinese officials and academics, a senior State Department official said, speaking anonymously.

“What the US has said about China restricting the activities of US diplomats is simply groundless,” said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, adding that China “consistently supported” US diplomats in the country.

“We urge the US to correct its mistakes, revoke the relevant decision, and provide support and convenience for Chinese diplomats in the US… rather than artificially setting up barriers,” he told reporters at a press briefing in Beijing.

The move comes as Washington and Beijing — the world’s two largest economies — are locked in a bitter trade dispute.

A partial deal is now being put in writing, President Donald Trump said Wednesday, while Beijing said both sides were working towards “an early agreement”.

“Unfortunately in China, US diplomats do not have unfettered access to a range of folks that are important for us to do our job there,” the US official told reporters.

“That includes local and provincial level officials, academic institutions, research institutes,” the official said. “We have to seek permission and such permission is often denied.”

Chinese diplomats will henceforth be required to tell the State Department in advance of any official meetings with US diplomats, local or municipal officials, and before any visits to colleges or research institutions.

“What we’re trying to achieve here is just to get closer to a reciprocal situation,” the official said, emphasizing that Chinese diplomats were not being asked to get “permission” for their visits.

The official said he hoped the measure would prompt Beijing to open up its own country a bit more to US diplomats.

The US and China are also at odds over intellectual property rights and human rights questions including freedom of speech.

Two Americans detained in China on border charges
Beijing (AFP) Oct 17, 2019 -
Two Americans from an English-teaching business in China have been detained and bailed in the east of the country on suspicion of “organising others to illegally cross the border,” the foreign ministry said Thursday.

Alyssa Petersen and Jacob Harlan, a father of five, were taken into custody in Jiangsu province on September 27 and 29 and then released on bail, said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

Their Idaho-based company China Horizons, which arranges for Americans to teach English in Chinese schools, said in a post on its Facebook page on Saturday that the charges were “bogus”.

The detentions come amid diplomatic and trade tensions between China and the United States.

“I do not see this incident as having any specific links to current China-US relations,” Geng said at a regular press conference.

The US consulate in Shanghai was notified in a “timely fashion” and consular visits were arranged for both of them, he said.

The US State Department said it was “aware” of the detention of two US citizens in Jiangsu and the charges being brought against them.

“We take seriously our responsibility to assist US citizens abroad and are monitoring the situation,” a US embassy spokesman told AFP.

China Horizons said on Facebook that “their families are working on getting them international lawyers to help them get back home to the States.”

Harlan, the founder of China Horizons, was being held in a hotel under police surveillance in the city of Zhenjiang, according to a separate page set up for his legal fees.

Police detained him while he was with his eight-year-old daughter at a hotel in Weifang, Shandong province, on September 28 and took away his phone and computer, according to the post.

His daughter was finally allowed to briefly call her mother, and she later took an international flight with a family friend.

Harlan frequently travels from the United States to China to help teachers in the China Horizons programme, according to the company’s website.

Petersen, who is the assistant director of China Horizons, was detained around September 27 and was not heard from for two weeks until the State Department located her, according to her page.

“We received information that she is doing okay… wakes up when told, she goes to sleep when told. She spends her day in a Jail Cell or walking in a circle counting steps,” says the webpage, created a week ago.

“She cannot have any contact with anyone outside of a Consulate Officer who can visit once a month and a Lawyer.”

Contacted by AFP, Zhenjiang police said they had no immediate comment.

China Horizons said it would shut down at the end of October.

“Unfortunately, because of increasing political and economic problems between the u.s. and china, we are no longer able to send teachers to china safely,” the company wrote on its Facebook page.

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US imposes tit-for-tat restrictions on Chinese diplomats

Washington (AFP) Oct 16, 2019

The United States on Wednesday ordered Chinese diplomats to notify the State Department before meeting with federal and local officials, calling it a “reciprocal” move.

A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the new restrictions came in response to the inability of US diplomats to meet with a range of Chinese officials and academics.

The move comes as Washington and Beijing – the world’s two largest economies – are locked in a bitter trade dispute. A parti … read more

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