Yesterday evening, the Government of Canada updated its travel advisory to China, now urging Canadians to 'exercise a high-degree of caution' due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws.
After the Chinese court sentenced detained Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death over a previous drug smuggling charge, relations between Canada and China have become increasingly tense. Schellenberg had previously been handed a 15-year sentence back in 2016 for his drug crimes.
In December 2018, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested on Canadian soil, a move that angered the Chinese government.
Since Wanzhou's arrest, two other Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, remain detained by China.
Are Canadians in trouble?
According to the Government of Canada's website, family members of Canadian citizens with Chinese citizenship have been detained in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Extraordinary security measures remain in place, and any visitors to the region are urged to always carry government ID, and follow the rules of the local authorities.
Travellers are subject to the criminal justice system of the country where you are arrested and imprisoned; Canadian laws have no value in China, and if an individual is arrested in China, consular officials will not arrange your release from prison. The Canadian government's website states that "if you are arrested or detained in another country, you should clearly inform the arresting authorities that you want them to immediately notify the nearest Canadian government office abroad of your arrest."
What is an exit ban?
According to the Canadian government, Chinese authorities may place an exit ban on an individual to prevent them from leaving the country. An exit ban can relate to investigations into an individual, their family or an employer, and in criminal and civil matters, including business disputes. You may not be aware that authorities have placed an exit ban on you until you try to leave the country. It is difficult to obtain information on bans from Chinese authorities.
If you are unable to leave the country because of an exit ban, consult a lawyer and contact the closest office of the Government of Canada.
In a statement from their website, the Canadian Government has said:
"The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad."
More information on travel to China can be found here.