Judicial Watch announced this week that it received eight pages of email communications from the U.S. Department of State revealing concerns by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing that U.S. diplomatic personnel were being asked to submit to an anal swab COVID testing policy. The redacted documents show that at as many as two people were either asked or required to take an anal test for COVID by the Chinese government.
Judicial Watch obtained the records in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against 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-cvc02111)). 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 25, 2021, an unidentified general services officer in the U.S. Embassy, Beijing, sent emailsto personnel evidently under quarantine after traveling to China under the subject line “Testing Guidance:”
Sorry for the strange questions, but I was directed by embassy management to survey our people and ensure we are not being asked to participate in the more invasive testing procedures.
The sender also writes:
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.
The testers may also ask to do an “environmental test” where they enter the residence and swab drinking glasses, furniture, etc. This is also not permitted. They may swab the outside of the doorknob, but nothing internal. [Emphasis in the original.]
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.
One recipient responds on January 26:
No, I have had no unusual requests. I received a nasal and throat swab when I arrived in Shanghai and just a throat swab before departing.
Beginning at 10:34 p.m. on January 26, 2021, another unidentified sender emails to an unidentified recipient under Subject Line, “Test:”
[Redacted] please call me at your convenient time [redacted]. Below text message came from [redacted]. This is not good!”
At 10:39, the recipient responds:
This is becoming so non diplomatic status testing. Disgusting. I hope the GSO [general services officer] and VIP Beijing visits can do something about this. I am so disgusted right now.
The sender responds at 11:49 AM the next day: “At this point, if they will insist the anal test, we would like to just go back to the States.”
Another recipient of the original “Testing Guidance” email responds on January 26: “Thanks. I am hoping for a smooth covid test and release on Friday.”
On January 26, an unidentified sender responds to the original “Test Guidance” email:
That is indeed a very strange test and first time we’ve heard as well.
Fortunately, the tests we had at the Shanghai airports was just nose swab and one at Shanghai hotel on our 14th day was just throat swab.
Do you have a good number we can call that we will definitely get a response right away once they come in for the test on Friday, January 29th? Last Friday, I tried to call 9 to 10 a.m. to be connected to anyone in the VIP visits and no one answered the office number and the mobile number same thing when we got inside the LMQC unit at 2:30 I started calling to inquire more guidelines and I was not able to talk to anyone.
The original sender of the “Test Guidance” email responds:
Thanks for confirming. Generally speaking, try calling the Embassy main line and you can ask for my extension of [redacted]. If you can’t reach me, ask for the Duty Officer of GSO secretary.
GSO isn’t setup for 24/7 call service, but if you reach a Duty Officer, you can ask for me or one of the other GSOs.
On January 27, another recipient of the “Test Guidance” email notifies his “team:”
Team – FYI. [Redacted] being asked for anal swab and environmental test. Can Housing contact [redacted]? I’ll have VIP contact FAO ASAP.
On March 4, a redacted sender emails a redacted recipient in the State Department’s VIP Visits Section under the Subject Line, “Swabs, swabs, and more swabs” (citing a Reuters article):
I hadn’t heard this rule before:
Travelers flying into Shanghai must undertake a full battery of tests including anal swabs, if more than five people on their airplane test positive for the virus, state media reported, citing one of the local CDC staff.
In response to this email, the recipient appears to email another person in the VIP Visits section about the new Chinese rule:
This is certainly different and a variation on the “close contact” rule.
VIP – please check with FAO again on this. Seems to be a CDC rule and given our history with close contacts and following hotel separations, want to make sure the MFA/FAO understand this is not acceptable for our people regardless of the reason.
The recipient of this email responds: “Just checked with Shanghai FAO, for in-bound diplomats who’re close contact to someone tested positive upon arrival, they will still quarantine in the Wyndham Hotel, but with one additional NAT test [Nucleic Acid Test].
On March 5, the VIP Visits sender emails the apparently same recipient:
Just checked with my contact from the PEK [Beijing International Capital Airport] customs. Airport only does nasal swab and throat swab. According to some Chinese social media, international travelers are required to get anal tests during centralized quarantine. It could happen on Day 3, Day 7, Day 14 or Day 21. Some people were tested once and some were twice. Samples were collected by medical staff or travelers themselves or from a fecal sample.
The recipient responds:
Thanks [redacted]. Interesting that there’s no central policy on this given all the media attention and spin. Please keep me undated if anything changes.
“It took six months and a federal lawsuit to confirm that our embassy in Beijing was concerned about the Chinese government’s invasive anal swab and other COVID testing of our diplomatic personnel – at that as many as two people were asked to submit to a test,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Our diplomatic personnel were harassed in a reprehensible way by the Chinese government, and the Biden administration seems to have done little in response – except to cover it up.”