China Responds to Reports It May Detain Americans, Says U.S. Is Trying to Play the Victim

China’s foreign ministry said on Monday the United States is calling white black and is trying to play the victim, following a report Beijing had warned Washington that Americans may be detained in China due to U.S. prosecution of Chinese scholars, Reuters writes.

U.S. actions have severely damaged the interests of Chinese citizens, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular news briefing.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that Chinese officials had issued repeated warnings to U.S. government officials that China may detain Americans in China in response to the Justice Department’s prosecution of Chinese military-affiliated scholars.

The Trump administration has increasingly accused China of using cyber operations and espionage to steal U.S. technological, military and other know-how in a strategy to supplant the United States as the world’s leading financial and military power. Beijing denies the allegations.

The threats are another striking escalation in tensions between the United States and China, which have been rising for years and have surged sharply since the coronavirus pandemic began in central China last winter, The New York Times adds.

But some analysts in Washington and Beijing say the Chinese government is trying to avoid any serious provocations against the United States before the elections in November.

And some Chinese officials are aiming to cool the temperature of U.S.-China relations, whether President Trump wins another term or Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic challenger and former vice president, takes over in the White House.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on whether Chinese officials had delivered warnings about plans to detain American citizens to retaliate for prosecutions of Chinese scholars.

“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,” John C. Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s national security division, said in a statement. “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.”

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