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You may want to allow extra time and extra care entering China.

If you read or share any Western coverage of the Hong Kong Protests, you may want to be extra careful the next time you cross through a Chinese border. Reports of deep searches by authorities and the detention of a British consulate worker are bringing worry that China is cracking down on anyone it so much as presumes to support Hong Kong, and no one wants to be detained during a vacay, or work trip.

hong kong peakWhy Is This Happening?

China is grappling with protests in Hong Kong centred around a controversial HK Government bill which sought to enable China to extradite people. The now shelved proposal caused widespread fear of Chinese overreach and intervention into the one country, two systems approach and has lead to mass protests, including hundreds of cancelled flights as protestors took over Hong Kong Airport.

The Chinese Government in Beijing is fuming over the protests, going as far as to demand manifests of all flight crews coming from Hong Kong to China, with the aim to bar anyone seen as supporting of the movement. China has threatened intervention in Hong Kong, if a peaceful solution is not reached.

What’s Happening At Chinese Borders

The BBC issued a story today which details two frightful tales of Chinese authorities taking a hard stance on travellers coming into the country. A UK consulate worker in Hong Kong went missing after crossing into China at the Shenzen border on August 8th. Today, 15 days later, Chinese authorities have just confirmed his detention.

“China said Mr Cheng had been detained for 15 days for violating “public security management regulations”, although the foreign ministry gave no details of the alleged offence.” – BBC

In the same report, first hand accounts of recent border crossings into China urge increased caution, with phones being searched for any materials related to Hong Kong, including news stories, tweets and photos. All travellers are reportedly being pulled out of line and having their phones and devices deep searched, with an eye for any and all materials related to Hong Kong. Think: news stories, texts between friends and photos of the events.

“After seeing I had these on my phone, the staff immediately called other uniformed staff, took me to another room, and asked about my background, my job, whether I had joined the protests. Another staff member carefully checked my phone’s photo albums to see how many protest-related photos I had.”

Cause For Travel Concern?

China has always had quite a restrictive process for entry for citizens of most Western countries, with in person visa requirements prior to travel and steep fees. It’s hard to imagine real cause for concern for most travellers who have no stake or deep interest in the Hong Kong protests, but at the same time, it’s scary to think of being detained at a border without explanation.

This new crackdown isn’t necessarily a reason to pause, cancel or delay travel, but if you do have any photos from friends of the Hong Kong Protests, or have been sharing articles or discussing it in text conversations, you may absolutely want to delete, and hard delete everything from your phone. In the instance above, the immigration authorities found everything in the “Recently Deleted” folder. No one wants to visit a Chinese jail during their holiday…

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