According to recent reports, Chinese authorities have been imposing “China exit bans” that are preventing thousands of citizens and foreigners from leaving the country. These travel restrictions are typically put in place when the authorities have suspicions of illegal activity or when individuals owe debts to either the government or private entities.
The situation has been a cause for concern among those affected by the bans, with some individuals reportedly being stranded in China for months or even years. The impact of these restrictions has also been felt by foreign companies doing business in China, as some of their employees have been unable to leave the country.
The Chinese government has defended the use of these exit bans, stating that they are a necessary measure to prevent individuals from fleeing the country and avoiding legal repercussions. However, critics argue that the bans are being used as a tool for political repression and to silence dissidents.
As the situation continues to unfold, it remains to be seen how the Chinese government will respond to these criticisms and what the future holds for those impacted by “China exit bans“.
China exit bans: Why do these bans occur?
China exit bans to prevent individuals, including foreign executives, from leaving the country. According to a report by the rights group Safeguard Defenders and a Reuters analysis, there has been a surge in cases involving China exit bans in recent years. Foreign business lobby groups have expressed concern about the trend, especially as China seeks to open up to overseas investment and travel following its Covid restrictions.
China exit bans: Legal landscape’s
The Safeguard Defenders report notes that since Xi Jinping assumed power in 2012, China has expanded the legal landscape for exit bans and increasingly used them, sometimes without legal justification. The group estimates that tens of thousands of Chinese citizens are banned from leaving at any one time. In addition, a 2022 academic paper found that 128 foreigners had been exit-banned between 1995 and 2019, including 29 Americans and 44 Canadians.
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China’s counter-espionage law
Last week, China strengthened its counter-espionage law, allowing exit bans to be imposed on anyone, Chinese or foreign, who is under investigation. Most of the cases in the supreme court database relating to exit bans are civil, not criminal. Furthermore, the counter-espionage legislation’s vague wording has raised concerns among foreign businesses, as it allows exit bans to be imposed on those who cause “harm to the national security or significant damage to national interests.”
Foreign businesses facing scrutiny
Foreign businesses have been facing increased scrutiny by Chinese authorities in recent weeks. For example, in April, authorities visited the offices of Bain, a US management consultancy, in Shanghai. The EU Chamber of Commerce in China has noted that the exit bans send mixed signals to foreign investors, just as China is trying to restore business confidence and attract foreign investment.
Individuals impacted by China exit bans
The people barred from leaving China include Chinese individuals embroiled in financial disputes, rights defenders, activists, lawyers, and ethnic minorities such as Uyghurs in China’s north-western Xinjiang region. A Chinese judicial report revealed that 34,000 people were placed under exit bans in 2018, a 55% rise from the previous year. Some activists believe that the wider use of exit bans reflects tighter security measures under President Xi Jinping. The vagueness of the law means that Chinese authorities can find any reason to prevent an individual from leaving the country.