Support The Moscow Times!

Chinese Officials Are Searching Russian Travelers’ Phones at Border, Consulate Warns

Artyom Korotayev / TASS

Russia has requested an official explanation from China over a reported new policy in which Russian citizens’ phones are randomly seized and searched by Chinese border guards.

The Russian Consulate General in Guangzhou issued an advisory last week, warning that border guards at China’s Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport had begun to randomly select Russian travellers to verify their stated purpose for visiting China by searching their smartphones, including photos, videos and messages. Individuals could be blocked from entering China if border officials found compromising information on their phones, the message said.

"We sent the Chinese a detailed note asking them to explain what criteria the new measures are based on," Grigory Kolyshkin, the attache of the consulate general, told the state-run TASS news agency on Tuesday.

"We asked them to provide their criteria for compromising information, grounds for checking phones, whether this is a new policy, and, if so, why it was not communicated in a timely manner," he added.

While the exact number of Russians whose phones had been searched at the Chinese border is unclear, the cellphone searches have only taken place in Guangzhou so far, Kolyshkin said.

“Guangzhou is a kind of hub for tourists,” he said. “We know that in [nearby] Shenzhen, for example, there have been no such [cellphone checks].”

The consulate general will issue further instructions to Russian citizens once it receives a response from China, according to Kolyshkin.

“As soon as we receive a response, we will be able to inform our citizens about the introduction of new measures or their absence,” he said.

Read more

Independent journalism isn’t dead. You can help keep it alive.

As the only remaining independent, English-language news source reporting from Russia, The Moscow Times plays a critical role in connecting Russia to the world.

Editorial decisions are made entirely by journalists in our newsroom, who adhere to the highest ethical standards. We fearlessly cover issues that are often considered off-limits or taboo in Russia, from domestic violence and LGBT issues to the climate crisis and a secretive nuclear blast that exposed unknowing doctors to radiation.

As we approach the holiday season, please consider making a one-time donation — or better still a recurring donation — to The Moscow Times to help us continue producing vital, high-quality journalism about the world’s largest country.