The state department warning comes amid heightened tensions between China and the US [File: Ng Han Guan/The Associated Press]

The United States has warned citizens of “heightened risk of arbitrary detention” in China as tensions between the two countries have been on the rise over issues including the coronavirus pandemic, Hong Kong, and allegations of human rights abuses of the minority Muslim population in Xinjiang and residents of Tibet.

The state department did not specifically say what prompted the new security alert, which was issued to US citizens in China on Saturday.

US citizens may face “prolonged interrogations and extended detention” for reasons related to state security, the alert said. 

“Security personnel may detain and/or deport US citizens for sending private electronic messages

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