The Chinese government has warned Washington it may detain Americans in China in response to the Justice Department's prosecution of Chinese military-affiliated scholars, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.
The newspaper, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, said Chinese officials had issued repeated warnings through multiple channels to US government officials.
The paper said China's message was the United States should end prosecutions of Chinese scholars in US courts, or Americans in China could find themselves in violation of Chinese law.
A State Department advisory on Sept. 14 warning against travel to China said the Chinese government uses arbitrary detention and exit bans for US citizens and others "to gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments."
The White House referred questions to the State Department, which said in an emailed statement that it stresses "to the Chinese government – including at the highest levels – our concern about China's coercive use of exit bans on US citizens and citizens of other countries, and will continue to do so until we see a transparent and fair process."
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
The Trump administration has increasingly accused China of suing cyber operations and espionage to steal US 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.
In July, the Justice Department said the FBI had arrested three Chinese nationals for allegedly concealing memberships in the Peoples Liberation Army when applying for visas to conduct research at US academic institutions.
Last month, the United States said it had revoked visas for more than 1,000 Chinese nationals under a presidential measure denying entry to students and researchers deemed security risks, a move China called a violation of human rights.
At the time, a State Department spokeswoman said the United States continued to welcome "legitimate students and scholars from China who do not further the Chinese Communist Party's goals of military dominance."