Judicial Watch announced today that it received 11 pages of records from the U.S. Department of State revealing that U.S. diplomatic officials in China objected to being asked to submit to anal swab COVID testing by the Chinese government. The redacted documents show that at least one U.S. employee was given an anal swab test for COVID “at his apartment.”
Judicial Watch obtained the records in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuitagainst the State Department for non-identifying records of U.S. diplomatic personnel being subjected to invasive COVID-19 anal swab tests by the Chinese government (Judicial Watch v U.S. Dept of State (No. 1:21-cv-02111)). This lawsuit was filed after the State Department failed to respond to a June 18, 2021, FOIA request for:
All records about US diplomatic personnel in or seeking to enter China being subjected to anal swab tests for the COVID-19 virus, including all complaints and communications regarding such testing. This request does not seek any personal identifying information of US diplomatic personnel that may have been subjected to such testing.
On January 22, 2021, a redacted general services officer from the U.S. Consulate General in Shenyang sent an email with the subject “New Testing Method?”:
So, a colleague from [redacted] telling our group [redacted] that he was given an anal COVID swab at his apartment. Just a heads up, as I am sure it is going to blow up soon… if you aren’t already dealing with it. Employee’s name is [redacted]. Just getting ahead before the word of mouth starts spreading.
A redacted official responds:
In what city did this occur? And what number test? And did he say if they gave any notice beforehand the test would be conducted in this manner? And was he presented with options.
A redacted official responds:
-He is in his apartment as part of the +7 (from my understanding)
-No notice or options as I can tell
-He had to do both a nose and anal swab
Also on January 22, 2021, a management officer in the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang, whose name is redacted, sent an email with the subject “RE: No Anal swabs for diplomats.”
FAO [foreign area office] is telling the Embassy that it was a mistake to ask for anal swabs and that it didn’t apply to diplomats. TBD how [redacted] will play it, but for now we’ll have to tell people they don’t have to do it. Reportedly you do it yourself in private so not as bad as I envisioned.
In a January 26, 2021, email regarding the anal COVID tests, a redacted U.S. official writes:
I hope the GSO [general services office] and VIP Beijing visits can do something about this.
In a January 27, 2021, email labeled with the subject line “COVID TEST 21ST DAY Hedeliza and Efren Balisi,” is marked “Importance: High,” a redacted U.S. official writes:
Team – FYI, [redacted] being asked for anal swab and environmental test. Can Housing contact [redacted]. I’ll have VIP contact FAO ASAP.
A redacted official writes on January 27, 2021:
I have asked [redacted] to contact [redacted] immediately regarding the anal swab and environmental testing. He is calling them now.
A redacted official on January 27, 2021, responds:
Please contact the [redacted]. [Redacted] turned off the anal swab, and indicated that we are fine with and oral or nasal swab. He also turned off the inside the apartment environmental testing as I protested both of those items.
On May 5, 2021, a redacted official writes to [email protected] with the subject line “Beijing PCS Arrival and Quarantine Questions:”
Hi. [Redacted] I’m planning to arrive in country in early August. What do we need to be aware of for planning purposes? Are we able to fly into Beijing directly? Someone mentioned that we have to fly into another city. We currently have reservations for Beijing, so we wanted to check before having the tickets issued.
We’ve been hearing a lot of horror stories about the quarantine in China. Unfortunately, the monthly newcomers call [redacted] land the calls aren’t recorded, so we can’t even hear the answers to others questions via a recording of the calls. So I hope you don’t mind us asking our questions to you directly. We’ve had some conversations with the CLO and their office referred us to you for more specifics.
We have been talking with a number of [redacted] in China or those that recently left. We’ve heard a lot of horror stories about the quarantine upon arrival. We’ve heard about older children being separate from families during the quarantine, anal swab testing and real violations of diplomatic norms. Others have reported they were crammed in rooms with inadequate bedding- i.e. two twin beds for a family of four- and sub-par conditions bordering on detention center level living. It seems like diplomats and their families are not being treated according to acceptable norms. The escalation of the PRC’s violations of diplomatic protections seems particularly concerning….
A redacted official responds:
Please note that Chinese travel, COVID testing, quarantine, and other regulations are tightly controlled by the PRC and there is little flexibility in the process. The U.S. Embassy Beijing and China Desk in Washington have continually been engaged with our Chinese counterparts in all facets of the process. The VIP and Travel teams here at the embassy continually monitor the regulations and provide the best guidance to our travelers possible while supporting a large volume of diplomatic personnel and their families as they navigate the process. I’ve attached our Beijing travel handbook for general reference.
The following talking points are designed to try to address your questions below:
. We have successfully brought back 140 diplomatic staff and families to Beijing on commercial air travel since October 2020 with many more in the pipeline. Over 1,200 people returned to Mission China after evacuation in 2020 amidst uncertain circumstances. I can’t directly respond to the “horror stories” you are referring to, but would encourage you to take social media posts and information from non-official channels with a grain of salt. We have had many families successfully navigate the testing and quarantine procedures with safe travel to Beijing….
. The quarantine hotel policies in China are strict and not flexible: under the current regulations, unfortunately, children ages 14 and up will need to quarantine in a separate hotel room for the initial14 days of quarantine in Shanghai. Upon final arrival in Beijing, the goal is for the family to do the 3rd week of quarantine together in your diplomatic residence. If you have medical concerns about this process or have special family needs, I highly encourage you to contact the Beijing Health Unit for guidance and consultation.
. For children under 14, each child can share a room with a parent in likely a double or queen sized bed at the [redacted] I am unfamiliar with the twin bed concerns and we have not seen that with the hotels in Shanghai or Beijing.
. While in quarantine, most travelers don’t have a need to contact the Embassy directly other than to schedule the onward travel from Shanghai. That said, if there is a medical or other emergency, the U.S. Consulate Shanghai is well aware of travelers in quarantine and able to assist should a crisis arise.
. There are no means for U.S. government or any non-PRC CDC or Customs personnel to have contact with you at the airport or hotel. Until you have completed the testing and quarantine regimen, regrettably there are no means for interpersonal interaction with USG representatives. Both the airport and hotel have successfully brought in thousands of expatriate personnel in the pandemic era and the processes are well known by all parties and relatively smooth.
. Anal swabs and “environmental testing” inside USG residences are not permitted for diplomatic staff. This acknowledgement of diplomatic rights has been confirmed repeatedly by MFA and FAO. If there is an attempt to conduct such a test, the traveler is fully within their rights to refuse testing and contact the Embassy.
I understand some of these answers may not be what you were hoping for, but I wanted to provide direct, honest guidance based on the PRC policies and situation here. If you have continued concerns, I highly recommend discussing with your gaining office management and/or appropriate personnel in Washington.
Please note that the PRC travel, quarantine, hotel, and testing policies can and do change regularly with no warning and immediate effect. The guidance above is designed to give you an idea of the current landscape, but this is always subject to change as we’ve seen many times before. Please remain in contact with the Beijing VIP team on the latest guidance and we look forward to welcoming you and your family to Beijing in the future.
“These documents detail confirm abuse of US diplomatic personnel by the Chinese government,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Biden administration doesn’t seem to have done much about this abusive anal swab testing other than pretend it didn’t happen and cover it up.”
In December 2021, Judicial Watch received records from the State Department showing at as many as two people were either asked or required to take an anal test for COVID by the Chinese government. One unidentified general services officer wrote:
There’s no good way to ask this, but has any health authority asked you or your spouse to conduct an anal swab test? The embassy obviously does not authorize or permit this type of testing on diplomats, but others have been asked so I need to verify everyone’s experience.***
For the record, our agreement is for nasal and/or throat swabs only. If you are asked to undergo either of the above or any other that seems inappropriate, please refuse and contact us immediately. We will escalate to [China’s] MFA/FAO [foreign area officer] and go from there.
On January 27, a State Department official sends an email with the subject line “COVID TEST 21ST DAY”:
AT this point, if they will insist [upon] the anal test, we would like to just go back to the States.
Another comment in the email chain reads:
Team – FYI. [Redacted] being asked for anal swab and environmental test. Can Housing contact [redacted]? I’ll have VIP contact FAO ASAP.