China warns it may detain US citizens over scholar probes: Report

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Chinese officials warned their US counterparts as early as the summer that they may detain Americans in China if the US doesn’t stop prosecuting Chinese academics, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

China sent repeated warnings through multiple channels, including the US Embassy in Beijing, the report said.

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The US charged several Chinese scientists who were conducting research at US universities with concealing ties to the Chinese military. The prosecutions have become a flash point of tension between the US and China, which have since closed each other’s diplomatic missions in Houston and Chengdu.

A US State Department spokesman declined to address the specifics of the newspaper report, the Journal said.

"We are aware that the Chinese government has, in other instances, detained American, Canadian and other individuals without legal basis to retaliate against lawful prosecutions and to exert pressure on their governments, with a callous disregard of the individuals involved," the newspaper quoted John Demers, head of the Justice Department’s national security division, as saying.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington and China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment, it said.

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