The United States has merged its travel warning for Hong Kong with that of mainland China, urging people to reconsider travel to both places due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws.
The US State Department said on its website on Thursday that since the National Security Law was imposed in Hong Kong, Beijing had unilaterally and arbitrarily exercised police and security power in the SAR.
It said a Chinese propaganda campaign falsely accused individuals, including American citizens, of fomenting unrest in Hong Kong, publishing personal information, resulting in some people receiving threats of violence on social media.
"The PRC has demonstrated an intention to use this authority to target a broad range of activities it defines as acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign entities," the State Department said.
"The National Security Law also covers offences committed by non-Hong Kong residents or organisations outside of Hong Kong, which could subject US citizens who have been publicly critical of the PRC to a heightened risk of arrest, detention, expulsion, or prosecution," it added, noting that mainland security forces and the new Office for Safeguarding National Security, were operating in Hong Kong and were not subject to oversight by the judiciary.
It said that on the mainland the central government had carried out "arbitrary and wrongful" detentions and imposed exit bans on US citizens and citizens of other countries without due process of law. It accused Beijing of using these tactics to compel people to take part in government probes, to pressure family members to return home.
It said the central government also used the tactics to gain "bargaining leverage over foreign governments", without giving details.
"In most cases, US citizens only become aware of an exit ban when they attempt to depart the PRC, and there is no reliable mechanism or legal process to find out how long the ban might continue or to contest it in a court of law," the State Department said.
It warned that US citizens travelling or living in China, including Hong Kong, may be detained without access to US consular services or information about their alleged crime, and might be subjected to extended detention without due process of law.
It also expressed caution over the Covid-19 situation in the SAR.