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Chinese Authorities Announce New Travel Restrictions Ahead of Winter Olympics, US Citizens Barred From Leaving

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: January 17, 2022
An airline stewardess heads towards a departure gate at Chek Lap Kok Airport March 7, 2003 in Hong Kong. According to the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, U.S. businesses are executing exit strategies amid fears of the installation of total communism in the once-democratic City.
An airline stewardess heads towards a departure gate at Chek Lap Kok Airport March 7, 2003 in Hong Kong. According to the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, U.S. businesses are executing exit strategies amid fears of the installation of total communism in the once-democratic City. (Image: Christian Keenan/Getty Images)

Under new requirements issued by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Embassy on Jan. 5, passengers arriving on or after Jan. 13, will be subject to additional health screening procedures on top of already existing requirements.

The new guidelines require all passengers to complete a COVID-19 nucleic acid test 48 hours prior to traveling and then a PCR test upon arrival into China. In addition, passengers must also complete a health screening form and will only be allowed to enter the country upon receiving a green status on this form.

The announcement also states that all travelers will be required to show proof of vaccination and specifically noted that travelers from the U.S. will have to monitor their health and report back to authorities for 7 days after entering China. 

Passengers failing temperature checks at the airport will be sent to government facilities and subject to a mandatory quarantine. Some regions demand 14 days of quarantine; others, 21. 

Some Americans reportedly “stuck in China”

This sudden tightening in travel policy has disrupted many people’s travel plans, including Chinese citizens with dual citizenship or green cards returning to the country to visit relatives. Netizens on social media said that passport renewal applications submitted six months earlier were not approved, making their departures unlikely. 

To further complicate matters, Beijing does not recognize dual nationality and the advisory specifically singles out Chinese Americans. “US-China citizens and US citizens of Chinese heritage may be subject to additional harassment,” it said. Meanwhile, the Chinese government may prevent the U.S. Embassy from providing consular services, it added.

A Chinese businessman living in America named Zhang Shengqi told Radio Free Asia (RFA) in August 2021 that his friend was “stuck in China for a long time,” after his passport renewal was not approved. According to Zhang, his friend worked at an American college and although his employer had submitted an application for his passport to be renewed six months prior to his scheduled travel date, he was still waiting on it months later.

“When he left America, his newborn baby was less than a month old, now the baby was nearly half-a-year old. His wife had to take care of the baby all by herself,” Zhang told RFA.

“My friend even has contacts in the area, but even they can’t get it done for him; nobody is issuing them, so he is stuck there and can’t get out,” he said. “It’s pretty inhumane when families can’t be together.”

China’s Zero-COVID policy disrupting millions

Chinese authorities are taking urgent action to contain and prevent new outbreaks just weeks ahead of the Winter Olympics and Lunar New Year’s peak travel season. The Olympics are scheduled to begin in Beijing and nearby Hebei province on Feb. 4.

The country’s northern cities of Xi’an and Yuzhou have been under stringent city-wide lockdowns since late December. Residents have been barricaded in their homes and essential services such as buying groceries and accessing medical care have been virtually halted. 

Videos circulating on social media have revealed desperate pleas from residents in Xi’an as supplies reach dangerously low levels and people are not allowed to leave their quarantine sites to procure more. Residents were told that food and essentials would be delivered to their homes everyday, however, this has not always been the case.

One video showed a resident appearing to trade his Nintendo Switch console for a packet of instant noodles and two steamed buns, while another post on Weibo said people were exchanging cigarettes for cabbage, dishwashing liquid for apples, and sanitary pads for a small amount of vegetables.

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