Judicial Watch: Records Confirm Chinese Government ‘Anal Swab’ COVID Testing of U.S. Diplomatic Personnel

(Washington, DC) – 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 Beijingvipvisits@state.gov 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….

SOURCE Judicial Watch