Stanford overseas travel consultant intensifies warnings for China-related travel

Jan. 18, 2019, 3:24 a.m.

Stanford’s third-party consultant for overseas travel has issued additional precautionary recommendations on China-related travel after a Chinese court sentenced a Canadian traveler convicted of drug smuggling to death on Monday.

The recommended precautions include ensuring appropriate travel documents have been obtained and registering itineraries and plans with respective national government traveller programs. Additionally, travelers are encouraged to refrain from discussing sensitive political topics and to exercise caution before sending documents or information abroad that would fall under the purview of China’s state secrets law.

The new recommendations issued by International SOS — which provides travel, health and security-related services as a part of Stanford’s “International Travel Assistance Program” — were emailed on Tuesday to Stanford Global mailing list subscribers on behalf of the Stanford Office of Risk Management (ORM).

In the email, the ORM warned that China uses exit bans coercively to “compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations,” “lure individuals back to China from abroad” and “aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.”

These recommendations come after the State Department updated its China Travel Advisory in early January to warn that U.S. citizens exercise “increased caution” when traveling in China. It warned of added travel risks due to “arbitrary enforcement of local laws” as well as “special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese nationals.”

Also in early January, a State Department representative advised U.S. academic institutions that no additional travel precautions needed to be taken in light of the Travel Advisory revision, according to the ORM.

However, in the wake of the death sentence imposed on Canadian traveler Robert Lloyd Schellenberg — who was convicted by a Chinese court of drug smuggling — International SOS decided to issue additional precautionary recommendations on China-related travel.

Stanford Office of International Affairs director Brendan Walsh told The Daily that it is “more important than ever for travelers to inform themselves about technology and privacy while they are traveling.”

“We exist in an international climate where it is important for everyone who travels internationally to exercise sound judgment and be diligent about traveling with the right documents,” Walsh wrote.

Walsh also noted that the Office of International Affairs has received inquiries about digital security and proper visas for China-related travel in light of the new recommendations, though the Office has not yet heard of any programs or students changing their travel plans.

Vinita Bali, who sent Tuesday’s email on behalf of the Office of Risk Management, did not respond to a request for comment.


Contact Berber Jin at fjin16 ‘at’

Berber Jin is a senior history major and desk editor for the university beat at the Daily. He enjoys covering university China policy and technology ethics, and is currently writing an honors thesis on the Caribbean anti-colonialist George Padmore. He is originally from New York, NY.

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