In retaliation to the US Department of Justice's prosecution of Chinese military-affiliated scholars, government officials of China have warned their American counterparts that they might start detaining US nationals in China.
According to some people, the Chinese officials have issued warnings to the US government representatives repeatedly and through several channels, including the US Embassy in Beijing, reported the Wall Street Journal.
"If China wants to be seen as one of the world's leading nations, it should respect the rule of law and stop taking hostages," said John Demers, head of the Justice Department's national security division.
"We are aware that the Chinese government has, in other instances, detained American, Canadian and other individuals without a legal basis to retaliate against lawful prosecutions and to exert pressure on their governments, with a callous disregard of the individuals involved," Wall Street Journal quoted Demers.
The warning comes after the US began the arrest of a series of Chinese scientists visiting the American universities to conduct research. The US government had charged them for allegedly concealing their active duty statuses with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) from the US immigration authorities.
US had also alleged that Chinese diplomats were coordinating activities with the researchers, which was described as a major factor in the ordering of China to shut down its Houston consulate in July and remove military scientists from the country, according to an article on Wall Street Journal.
On many occasions, Chinese authorities have detained foreign nationals in moves, which have been seen by their governments as baseless, or in some instances as 'diplomatic retaliation', a tactic that many in Washington policy circles have referred to as "hostage diplomacy."
China has also denied US citizens permission to exit from the country, and arrested, charged or sentenced Canadian, Australian and Swedish citizens on what officials from those governments have said are 'bogus' allegations.
In a September travel advisory, the State Department had recommended Americans to avoid China travel for a number of reasons, including a warning that the Chinese government detains other countries' citizens "to gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments."
One of the Chinese military scientists, Tang Juan, had taken up residence in China's San Francisco consulate for a month after being questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in June.
Chinese officials had allegedly told their US counterparts that they would detain an American in China if the US did not allow the researcher to leave the consulate and return to China.
The FBI arrested Juan in July when she left the consulate grounds.
A lawyer for Juan, who is out on bail after pleading not guilty to visa fraud charges, said in a statement that his "inquiries reveal nothing even remotely similar to any assertion that the Chinese government sought to interfere in Dr Tang's case."
In addition to Juan, four other researchers recently accused of hiding their ties with the Chinese military have pleaded not guilty to similar charges, out of which two are scheduled to face trial next month.
( With inputs from ANI )
Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor