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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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China 2020 Crime & Safety Report: Beijing

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in a dozen provinces across the northern and central portion of China. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s China country page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Travel Advisory

Note that the Regional Security Office submitted this report prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, and it represents a picture of the baseline security environment as of the beginning of 2020. The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication advises avoiding travel to China the novel coronavirus. However, the Travel Advisory in effect prior to the outbreak assessed China at Level 2, indicating travelers should Exercise increased caution in China due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws and special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese citizens. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Chinese authorities have asserted broad authority to prohibit U.S. citizens from leaving China by using exit bans, sometimes keeping U.S. citizens in China for years. China uses exit bans coercively:

·         to compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations;

·         to lure individuals back to China from abroad; and

·         to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.

In most cases, U.S. citizens only become aware of the exit ban when they attempt to depart China. Authorities have harassed and threatened U.S. citizens subject to exit bans. U.S. citizens may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime. U.S. citizens may be subject to interrogations and extended detention for reasons purportedly related to state security.

Extra security measures, such as security checks and increased levels of police presence, are common in the Xinjiang Uighur and Tibet Autonomous Regions.

China does not recognize dual nationality. U.S.-Chinese citizens and U.S. citizens of Chinese heritage may be subject to additional scrutiny and harassment.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Beijing as being a LOW-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. China’s capital has a population of more than 21.5 million people and is generally safe when compared to other global cities. The presence of police and security personnel throughout the city serves to deter most serious crime, while petty crime occurs with regularity.

Generally, lesser-developed areas in major cities have a higher rate of crime. Statistically, more crimes of opportunity transpire during overnight hours. For example, individuals who frequent bars, nightclubs, and similar establishments are more likely to be involved in physical altercations after midnight.

Training, capability, and responsiveness of Chinese authorities varies by region and city. The income disparity in Chinese society has been a source of social friction and is a root cause for much of the economic crime experienced in Beijing and other large Chinese cities. This includes pickpocketing, credit card fraud, and various financial scams, many of which target foreign victims because of their perceived wealth. Pickpocketing on public transportation during peak hours, in shopping areas, and at tourist sites is common. In such locations, travelers may have little or no personal space, making them more vulnerable to pickpocketing and petty theft. Thieves target cash, credit cards, jewelry, cell phones, cameras, and other electronic devices, among other personal belongings. At tourist sites, thieves are generally more interested in cash, and will immediately abandon credit cards; in shopping areas, they may seek cash and credit cards. Make copies of your passport photo page and visa, as well as credit card numbers (to include telephone contact information in the event the card is stolen), and store in your hotel or residence – and keep a copy of the photo saved on your phone – in the event the actual items are stolen. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.

Criminals often work in teams and use distraction techniques; some may carry knives, even if they do not routinely brandish them.

Violent crime is relatively uncommon. Violent crime affecting the expatriate community most often occurs in bars, nightclubs, and other nightlife establishments. Bar fights often involve excessive drinking, insults regarding ethnicity/nationality, and disputes over women, and usually result in large numbers of local patrons physically overwhelming foreigners. While the legal age for consuming alcohol is 18, most establishments do not require identification. Some bars are overcrowded, and authorities do not routinely enforce safety standards. Prostitutes and drugs are present in some clubs and karaoke bars.

Travelers may encounter scenes of domestic violence or assault on the street. These incidents usually involve shoving, punching, and kicking. Even when a crowd forms, no one generally intervenes to stop the assault for fear of blame or liability. If necessary, locate the nearest police officer or station for assistance.

Workplace violence and assaults are less common but also occur, with several expatriates reportedly receiving threats or assaulted because of contract or wage disputes with business partners and employers. Review OSAC’s report, Detained in China.

Sexual assaults have occurred, although reported incidents remain relatively rare. Most instances follow the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages in bars, nightclubs, and massage parlors. Other factors potentially contributing to sexual assault include the use of unlicensed taxis, undertaking high-risk activities, or failing to follow best security practices. Review OSAC’s report, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.

Criminals use various scams to defraud foreign victims. While there have been instances of robbery by force, many cases appear to have involved a variation of the same scam. Typically, scammers invite a victim to a specific location for a massage, tea, drinks, or music, or to view an art exhibition or practice English skills. While in the establishment, criminals confront the victim and force them to turn over a credit card under the threat of violence. The criminals then charge the credit cards with thousands of dollars in purchases, for which the victim must sign the receipt. In most cases, criminals release the victims unharmed, though distraught or embarrassed, with further threats of violence should they notify the police. Although this trend has occurred for several years, it appears to be continuing unabated. Local police are willing to engage, but often seem unwilling to investigate the crimes if the complainant is no longer present in China. In instances where the victim reported the crime to the police immediately, there has been limited success in recovering lost money or valuables, but evidence of prosecutions is scarce. Review OSAC’s reports, Common China Scams and Common China Scams pt. II: Theft/Extortion.

Scammers send text messages and emails referring to fraudulent bills and/or traffic tickets to trick people into paying money.

Scammers use information gained from recent data security breaches to trick their victims into believing that they are legitimate callers. For example, a caller may reference a victim’s name, address, ID number, family member names, and/or school to trick the victim into sending them money.

Scammers pose as a police officers, and place telephone calls requesting a funds transfer to resolve an identity theft or money laundering investigation. The situation can be “resolved” if the victim agrees to the transfer.

Another reported scam occurs when bad weather cancels flights. An individual at the airport approaches stranded passengers and asks if they need a hotel room. The individual appears to work for the airport, wears an ID badge, and carries a radio. They call a vehicle, which takes the passengers to a hotel, and have them pay the driver. Upon check-out, they discover that they paid the driver at least double the hotel rate, and that the scammers had no affiliation with the airport or hotel.

Counterfeit currency is a significant concern in China, as evidenced by the scrutiny storeowners exercise when receiving payment in cash, and the use of a money-counting machine prior to acceptance to ensure validity. Unsuspecting visitors receive fraudulent notes at restaurants, stores, ATMs, and in taxi cabs. Large numbers of 100 RMB and 50 RMB counterfeit notes are regularly in circulation, though smaller denominations (such 10 RMB and 20 RMB notes) may also be counterfeit. Understand the signatures of authentic currency and do not change money with individuals on the street. Moneychangers offering unrealistic exchange rates often use counterfeit currency. Counterfeiting is becoming less common, as most people in China now use WeChat, AliPay, or other forms of electronic payment instead of cash. Use ATMs only at trusted financial institutions. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.

A common taxi scam occurs when passengers pay with a 100 RMB note. The driver switches the note with a counterfeit bill, “returns” the bill, and rejects it as counterfeit – only to then demand another genuine note. Carrying small bills or using exact change, particularly in taxis, can help protect you.

Cybersecurity Issues

There is no expectation of privacy in China. The Chinese government has the capability to monitor cellphones, tablets, and computers connected to the internet. The Chinese government has publicly declared that it regularly monitors private email and Internet browsing through cooperation with the limited number of internet service providers (ISPs) and wireless providers operating in China. Wireless access to the Internet in major metropolitan areas is becoming more common, so Chinese authorities can access official and personal computers more easily. U.S. government employees have reported seeing unknown computers and devices accessing their home networks; these intrusions likely required advanced computer knowledge and network password hacking.

The government proactively monitors all media outlets, and will temporarily block international media outlets during broadcasts of news stories considered unfavorable to the Chinese government. OSAC members frequently report incidents involving restricted bandwidth or high latency, making email and internet browsing frustratingly slow.

Cyber threat actors target foreign governments and members of the private sector. Foreign individuals and organizations should remain vigilant against potential intrusions to their proprietary networks and information technology systems. China is known for the use of sophisticated cyber capabilities including spear phishing, targeting of mobile devices, social engineering, and network manipulation. Viruses, malware, and other forms of malicious software are common.

The government controls the internet within China and restricts or blocks completely access to some common websites based outside of China. WeChat and other alternative Chinese applications are nearly ubiquitous; however, they have built-in features that allow the Chinese government to monitor and censor messages, read the device’s address book, access photos, track the user’s current location, and even activate the microphone or camera. China widely monitors social media accounts. Local authorities may use information they deem controversial against both the poster of the material and the host of the forum. Bloggers are subject to particular scrutiny, and may have content blocked depending on the profile, following, and content.

Information security in China is an organization-wide challenge that merges both physical and cyber security. An holistic approach to defend against a perceived increase in cybersecurity threats includes the following basic countermeasures:

·         Use “burner” devices containing limited information and erase or dispose of them after a trip is complete;

·         Minimize the number of mobile devices you carry, and keep devices with you at all times to maintain their integrity;

·         Do not accept electronic gifts, including USB devices, even from people you trust;

·         Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible.

Review OSAC’s reports, Trends in Chinese Cyber Espionage Campaigns and Virtual Private Networks In China: Are They Legal?

Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and All That You Should Leave Behind.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Conditions and Safety

Rules, regulations, and conditions vary greatly throughout China. As such, traffic safety is poor and driving can be dangerous. All drivers in China must possess a Chinese driver’s license. International or U.S. licenses are not valid in China.

The physical road conditions in larger cities are good. In contrast, road conditions in rural areas are usually poor. Beijing adds more than 1,000 newly registered vehicles to the roads every day, causing already congested roads to come to a standstill during rush hour. Additionally, a great number of pedestrians and bikers weave through traffic, creating a hazardous mix of conditions.

Traffic laws are routinely ignored. Most drivers are inexperienced, since private ownership of vehicles was not allowed until the last decade. According to China’s official English-language newspaper, the China Daily, nearly one-half of the accidents in Beijing involve drivers who have less than four years of driving experience. Traffic patterns and driving habits make crossing the street in Beijing dangerous. Pedestrians do not have the right of way; use extreme caution when walking in traffic, even in marked crosswalks.

The greatest road hazard remains the inexperienced Chinese driver. Many are either overly cautious or overly aggressive. According to one local media report, traffic-related deaths were the leading cause of death for individuals under the age of 45. Drivers disregard traffic laws, and policing proceeds remotely by video camera (mainly with speed traps). Yielding to oncoming traffic or pedestrians is uncommon, as is the use of turn signals. Driving while under the influence of alcohol is also common.

Busy roads often lack shoulders, forcing bicycles and scooters into driving lanes. Where there are shoulders, cars generally use them as another travel lane, especially on crowded highways. It is common to see drivers back up on the highway to get to an exit they missed, stop on the side of the highway to drop off passengers (before slowing merging back into high-speed traffic), or veer horizontally across several lanes of traffic to get to an off-ramp.

The Embassy responds to dozens of traffic accidents involving U.S. diplomats annually; most are minor and resolve on the scene. In many cases, bicyclists strike a static or moving vehicle. In traffic accidents, authorities rule the foreigner at fault, regardless of the actual cause of the accident. Drivers involved in accidents should not argue with the other party involved in a traffic accident, regardless of fault.

Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

Public Transportation Conditions

As one of the world’s most populous cities, all forms of public transportation in Beijing are crowded, but can become dangerously so during peak times such as the morning and evening commutes. The subway system is extensive.

Although inter-city train trips can be quite long due to the considerable distances between most major cities, the high-speed train system is generally safe and efficient. Trains and train stations are crowded during holiday travel periods. In 2018, Chinese travelers made around 3 billion trips during the 40-day Spring Festival period (Jan-Mar).

Use official taxis (two-tone sedans in Beijing) that employ meters. If a driver refuses to use a meter, exit the vehicle and use another taxi. Beijing taxis are affordable, but can be difficult to hail, as supply falls far short of demand, especially during peak times. Taxis sometimes refuse to stop for foreigners, particularly those of African descent. Stories abound of foreigners stranded for long periods because they could not get a taxi.

Most drivers do not understand English and do not recognize the English names of popular hotels, shopping centers, or tourist sites (which often have no relationship to the Chinese names). Taxi drivers often refuse to take fares that require them to leave the center of the city, making it very difficult for travelers who live in or visit the suburbs. Taxis almost never have working seatbelts for passenger use. Some hotels can provide guests with taxi cards written in English and Mandarin that include the hotel name, address, and common points of interest. Didi (the most popular ride-share service in China) is a frequent alternative to taxis.

In a limited number of cases, foreigners have reported sexual assaults, luggage theft, or exorbitant overcharges while using unlicensed taxis. Luggage theft typically involves a taxi transporting individuals to or from the airport and the driver intentionally leaving the scene before the bags are unloaded.

Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of China’s Civil Aviation Authority as compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of China’s air carrier operations. Air travel out of Beijing, to domestic and international locations alike, remains quite expensive as the government regulates prices and competition. Flight delays are a common occurrence, including those that result from sudden military closures, and such delays are often not announced or explained to passengers. This can make travel planning particularly difficult and often too unpredictable for weekend trips. Beijing International Airport (PEK) experienced frequent delays throughout 2018, making transportation by rail a preferred and more dependable option.

Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX), the largest in the world, is located on the border of Beijing and Langfang, Hebei Province. It opened to the public in September 2019, making it Beijing’s second international airport. Located approximately 40 miles south of PEK, is will serve Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei. It serves as a hub for SkyTeam alliance airlines and some Oneworld members, while Star Alliance members will stay at PEK. The Daxing Airport Express of the Beijing Subway connects the airport to urban Beijing.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Beijing as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Shenyang experienced no incidents related to terrorism in 2019. There is no significant transnational terrorist presence known in China. Human rights organizations maintain that China uses counterterrorism as a pretext to suppress Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group that comprises a large percentage of the population in Xinjiang, northeastern China

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Beijing as being a LOW-threat location for political violence. The government remains focused on maintaining social stability and preventing civil unrest caused by economic and social complaints. The largest, most violent incidents have taken place in ethnic minority areas (e.g., Tibet and Xinjiang), where grievances over human rights abuses and discriminatory policies have resulted in spontaneous outbursts of violence targeting the government and Han Chinese interests.

The Chinese government controls all information available to Chinese citizens by censoring topics in books, social media, news outlets, radio broadcasts, billboards, and magazines. Most Chinese citizens are unaware of controversial Chinese issues well known outside of China.

Protests outside of official U.S. facilities occur occasionally, but the majority tend to be small and peaceful. In 2018, an apparently emotionally disturbed person injured himself by setting off an improvised explosive device along the U.S. Embassy compound’s perimeter. The attacker survived, and no other injuries were reported. Occasionally, Embassy employees report harassment or assault by Chinese nationals due to their official occupations. In most cases, the suspects appeared to be emotionally disturbed persons.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

The government remains focused on maintaining social stability and preventing civil unrest over economic and social grievances. In recent years, the largest and most violent incidents have taken place in ethnic minority areas (Tibet, Xinjiang) where grievances over human rights abuses and discriminatory policies have resulted in spontaneous outbursts of violence targeting the government and Han Chinese interests.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Natural disasters are common in China. Earthquakes kill dozens annually. Severe weather, such as large snowstorms, has brought parts of the country to a virtual standstill. Smaller-scale storms can often lead to multiple traffic accidents. Snow removal is typically slow and accomplished by employing thousands of laborers armed with shovels and brooms, with defrosting agents also used in larger urban areas.

Critical Infrastructure Concerns

Accidents and fatalities continue to plague China’s heavy industries. Worker safety and quality assurance procedures have improved slightly, but typically do not meet Western standards. Commercial transportation accidents involving motorized vehicles are common. Trucks are often overloaded and drivers are poorly trained. Bus accidents are also common in China. Poor driver training, overloaded buses, and the lack of safety checks are major contributors to accidents.

Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Theft

There is no expectation of privacy in public or private locations. The Consulate regularly receives reports of human and technical monitoring of U.S. businesspersons and other visiting U.S. citizens. The areas around U.S. and other foreign diplomatic facilities and residences are under overt physical and video surveillance; China stations security personnel U.S. facilities and around U.S. residences; and CCTV cameras are visible throughout Shanghai. Overt microphones and video cameras are common in Chinese taxis.

Activities and conversations in hotel rooms (including meeting rooms), offices, cars, and taxis are subject to onsite or remote monitoring. Authorities may access hotel rooms, residences, and offices at any time without the occupants’ consent or knowledge. Authorities may search personal possessions, including computers, in hotel rooms without the knowledge or consent of the owner. Elevators and public areas of housing compounds are under continuous surveillance.

Consulate employees do not discuss sensitive information in their homes, vehicles, or offices. Private-sector travelers should take similar precautions to safeguard sensitive, personal, and/or proprietary information. Be particularly mindful that it is Chinese policy to take trade secrets, negotiating positions, and other business-sensitive information to share with China-based competitors, counterparts, and/or Chinese regulatory and legal entities. Several U.S. firms have complained about theft of intellectual property, and are pursuing legal action in Chinese courts. A lack of transparency regarding business practices is as a danger for foreigners conducting business in China. Do not bring any electronics (personal or work) with sensitive information you do not want compromised.

Counterfeit products such as pharmaceuticals, DVDs and designer handbags, are readily available, but it is illegal to import them into the U.S. U.S. Customs officials have the authority to seize suspect goods and impose fines on travelers caught attempting to enter the U.S. with counterfeit items.

Personal Identity Concerns

Nationalism is rising quickly. In altercations between foreigners and Chinese, authorities usually blame the foreigner and find them at fault.

Although many women experience workplace sexual harassment, very few report it. One survey shows nearly 40% of women in China said they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The Law on the Protection of Women’s Rights and Interests empowers victims to file a sexual harassment complaint with their employer, authorities, or both. Employers who fail to take effective measures to prevent sexual harassment could receive fines. Many women remain unwilling to report incidents of sexual harassment, believing the justice system is ineffectual. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

China does not legally recognize same-sex marriages. Local authorities will not provide marriage certificates to same-sex couples. There are no civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, though same-sex sexual acts are no longer illegal. Prejudices and discrimination still exist in many parts of the country. There are growing LGBTI+ communities in some of China’s largest cities and violence against LGBTI+ individuals in China is relatively rare.

LGBTI+ individuals report incidents of violence, including domestic violence. LGBTI+ individuals encounter difficulties in seeking legal redress, since regulations on domestic violence, including the Family Violence Law, do not include recognition of same-sex relations. Redress is limited further by societal discrimination and traditional norms, resulting in most LGBTI+ persons refraining to publicly discuss their sexual orientation or gender identity. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

U.S. citizens with mobility disabilities may face challenges while traveling in China. Sidewalks often do not have curb cuts and many streets can be crossed only via pedestrian bridges or underpasses accessible by staircase. Assistive technologies for blind people and those with other vision disabilities are unreliable, and access to elevators in public buildings can be restricted. In major cities, public restrooms in places visited by tourists usually have a least one accessible toilet. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

In 2018, the central government implemented revisions to the Regulations on Religious Affairs. The revisions require religious groups to register with the government, increase penalties for “providing facilities” for unauthorized religious activities, and restrict contact with overseas religious institutions. These measures also included a new requirement for religious groups to seek approval to travel abroad and a prohibition on “accepting domination by external forces.” Citing these revised religious regulations, local authorities detained hundreds of members of the Early Rain Church – Chengdu’s largest house church – in 2018. Chinese authorities have detained, fined, and revoked the Chinese visas of U.S. citizens who security personnel alleged to have engaged in unauthorized religious activities while in China.

China continues its campaign of mass detention of members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang). Authorities have arbitrarily detained more than one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims in extrajudicial internment camps designed to erase religious and ethnic identities. Chinese government officials justified the camps under the pretense of combating terrorism, separatism, and extremism. International media, human rights organizations, and former detainees reported security officials in the camps abused, tortured, and killed detainees. Government documents, as published by international media, corroborated the coercive nature of the campaign and its impact on members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang and abroad. Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.

Authorities have interrogated or detained U.S. citizens and those from other countries visiting or resident in China for reasons purportedly related to state security. In such circumstances, individuals could face arrest, detention, or an exit ban prohibiting departure from China for a prolonged period. Dual U.S.-Chinese nationals and U.S. citizens of Chinese heritage may be at a higher risk of facing such special scrutiny. The Chinese government uses exit bas coercively to compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations; to lure individuals back to China from abroad; to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties.

In the past few years, U.S. citizens with Tibetan ethnic or family ties reported having to undergo a discriminatory Chinese visa application process, different from what is typically required of most travelers to China, at Chinese embassies and consulates in the U.S. Chinese authorities regularly denied their visa applications. On several occasions, Chinese authorities barred the entry into China of several U.S. citizens with Tibetan ethnic or family ties, despite their having valid Chinese visas in their U.S. passports.

Travelers with ethnic or familial ties to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region may experience special restrictions, discrimination, and even arbitrary detention.

Drug-related Crimes

Chinese law enforcement authorities have little tolerance for illegal drugs. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs in China are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines, or the death penalty. China convicts and executes more people for drug offences than anywhere else in the world, according to NGOs. Illicit drugs remain available to Chinese and expatriates alike. Authorities occasionally detain foreigners on drug charges. Police regularly conduct unannounced drug tests on people suspected of drug use and have been known to enter a bar or nightclub and subject all patrons to immediate drug testing. Police may force you to provide a urine, blood, or hair follicle sample on short notice. A positive finding, even if the drug was legal elsewhere or consumed prior to arriving in China, can lead to immediate detention, fines, deportation, and/or a ban from re-entering China.

Drug-related crimes do not appear to be a significant issue affecting the U.S. private sector.

China major transshipment point for heroin produced in the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Asia. There is growing domestic consumption of synthetic drugs and heroin from Southeast and Southwest Asia. China is a source country for methamphetamine and heroin chemical precursors, despite new regulations on its large chemical industry.

Kidnapping Threat

Kidnappings occur mostly over business disputes; one might better categorize them as “unlawful detentions,” often in the office or hotel room of the victim. The kidnappers may allow the victim to use their mobile phone (to arrange the resolution of the dispute); immediately call the police for assistance. Some local businesspersons who feel wronged by a foreign business partner may hire “debt collectors” to harass and intimidate the foreigner in hopes of collecting the debt. Foreign managers or company owners have been physically “held hostage” as leverage during dispute negotiations. The U.S. Department of State has no legal or law enforcement authority, and can neither involve itself in private disputes nor give legal advice.

In some cases, labor disputes have resulted not only in protracted stoppages, but also in temporary detention of expatriate managers by workers demanding continued employment or enhanced severance packages.

There have also been reports of taxi drivers transporting passengers to remote locations and forcing them to pay a fee under threat of injury. Such reports are relatively rare, and are often secondhand, circular accounts.

Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

Other Issues

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs):  In 2017, China implemented a law regulating the operations of foreign NGOs in China. This law requires foreign NGOs to obtain sponsorship from a Chinese government body as part of the registration process administered by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and may limit the scope of foreign NGO activities and sources of funding. The law also states that foreign NGOs must not undermine or damage China’s national interests. The MPS has published foreign NGO registration guidelines on its website, although some requirements and procedures remain unclear. Employees of foreign NGOs in China should be aware that the Chinese government’s application, interpretation, and implementation of these guidelines could vary widely by location and case. Any entity that the government might characterize as a foreign NGO, particularly those working in sensitive areas or fields, should consult with a local lawyer regarding the law's requirements and procedures for registration.

Foreigners working for NGOs in China have recently faced additional scrutiny. Ensure proper visa status to conduct activities in China. Authorities have interrogated and threatened with arrest foreign and Chinese NGO representatives for conducting activities while the NGO was not properly registered.

Police Response

The emergency line in China is 110. Those who do not speak Mandarin can ask to speak to an English-speaking officer, but very few English speakers staff this hotline. Visitors to China must report any criminal victimization to the police while in China; Chinese authorities will ignore any attempt to do so while outside of China.

Policing in China is different from U.S. policing; preserving social harmony is a large component of the Chinese policing doctrine. Depending on the crime, police may ask to negotiate for monetary damages with the alleged victim. If everyone agrees with a monetary arrangement, no further legal issue exists. The Chinese police training system has not yet evolved into one sympathetic to victims. Regardless of the crime, the victim must visit the nearest police station to report it. The victim must have the evidence to support his or her claims and could likely have the assailant present in the same room while they narrate the incident to the police. The role of the police at that time is to assist in negotiating a financial solution to the problem. The victim should not expect expressions of sympathy or support.

Police response to foreign victims of crime depends upon the type of infraction, location where it transpired, and the social status of the victim (e.g. private citizen, diplomat, VIP). Urban forces have better training and equipment, especially in first-tier cities, where authorities spend millions of dollars on security-related infrastructure. Local police are somewhat effective at deterring crime. Most responses to alarms and emergency calls are sufficiently prompt if the police know that the victim is a Westerner or a person of importance. In many cases, local police authorities will serve as a mediator between the victim and criminal to agree upon financial compensation, sometimes in lieu of jail time.

Investigative training and forensic equipment are improving but remain substandard compared to Western countries. Authorities never provide reports of investigations to Embassy or Consulate Regional Security Office, despite repeated formal requests.

Police officers have the right to assess fines at the scene of an incident. Westerners may perceive this as soliciting a bribe, but it is not.

Police have the authority to detain and deport foreigners for a wide variety of reasons. Police may detain foreigners who do not have their passport with them.

Police have reported that they are increasingly arresting foreigners for being out of status related to their Chinese visas. The police have conducted arrest sweeps at English language schools, where foreigners were working, but considered out of status with their visas.

If police arrest a U.S. citizen, the U.S.-China Consular Convention requires Chinese authorities to notify the nearest U.S. Embassy/Consulate of the arrest within four days. If a U.S. traveler with dual citizenship entered China using a non-U.S. passport, authorities are not required to notify the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. Typically, the police will not allow anyone other than a consular officer to visit the traveler during the initial detention period. Authorities rarely grant bail, and detainees can be subject to detention for many months before being granted a trial. Arguments concerning comparisons with the U.S. judicial system are largely ineffective. The U.S Government and its laws do not have jurisdiction in China.

If your passport is stolen, you must not only apply for a new passport at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but you must also apply for a new visa. To receive a new visa, you must file a police report at the police station nearest to where the theft occurred. You must also file a report at the local Entry/Exit Bureau.

Although police officers in some Chinese cities have begun carrying firearms, most officers on the street remain unarmed. Armed specialized units (SWAT) sometimes augment patrol officers. SWAT officers occasionally deploy during special events, at air and railway stations, and in response to protests or demonstrations. Police in Shanghai are increasingly using body cameras to record their interactions with the public.

Chinese law enforcement relies heavily on the large volume of cameras to police public areas, and makes regular use of their facial recognition technology. In addition, businesses must install camera systems with a 45-day capacity for digital video recording (DVR), which serves as a crime deterrent (despite privacy concerns). This technology also monitors any kind of protest activity, which will normally prompt a robust police response.

Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.

Medical Emergencies

The medical emergency line in China is 120. English-speaking dispatchers are limited.

The standards of medical care in China are not equivalent to those in the U.S. Western-style medical facilities with some international staff are available in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and a few other large cities. The price is comparable or higher than in the U.S. Hospitals with VIP sections (gao gan bing fang) or Special Needs wards (te xu) may be more likely to have reasonably up-to-date medical technology and skilled physicians who typically speak English. Rural areas have rudimentary facilities and inadequate staffing. Medical personnel in rural areas have often received poor training and have limited access to medical equipment or medications. Rural clinics are often reluctant to accept responsibility for treating foreigners, even in emergency situations.

Municipal and private ambulance services in China remain substandard. Response time is typically very slow, and transport to the nearest hospital can take a considerable amount of time due to traffic congestion. Ambulances do not typically carry sophisticated medical equipment, and ambulance personnel generally have limited Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training and/or English-language skills. As a result, injured or seriously ill U.S. patients may need to take taxis or other vehicles to the nearest major hospital.

Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Most hospitals will not accept medical insurance from the U.S. Hospitals in major cities may accept credit cards for payment, but U.S. citizens have frequently encountered difficulty due to cultural and regulatory differences. Travelers typically must post a deposit prior to admission to cover the expected cost of treatment. Consider buying foreign medical care and medical evacuation (medevac) insurance prior to arrival. Consult with your medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether the policy applies overseas, and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medevac. If your health insurance policy provides coverage outside the United States, carry both your insurance policy identity card as proof and a claim form. Although many health insurance companies will pay "customary and reasonable" hospital costs abroad, very few will pay for your medical evacuation back to the United States. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.

Poor air quality is often an issue in China. Find air quality ratings for Beijing and other U.S. Mission China posts at the Air Quality Index website. Pollutants such as particle pollution are linked to a number of significant health effects. Those effects are likely to be more severe for sensitive populations, including people with heart or lung disease, children, and older adults. Travelers with chronic respiratory or cardiovascular health conditions should speak with their health care provider prior to traveling to Chinese cities with poor air quality.

Carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with the prescription. Many common U.S. drugs and medications are not available in China, and counterfeit, low-quality knockoffs are prevalent. If you try to have medications sent to you from outside China, you may have problems getting Chinese Customs to release them and/or you may have to pay high customs duties. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling with Medication.

Most roads and towns in Tibet, Qinghai, parts of Xinjiang, and western Sichuan are situated at altitudes over 10,000 feet. Take appropriate precautions to prepare for and be alert to altitude sickness. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling in High Altitude.

The following diseases are prevalent: influenza; typhoid; measles; hepatitis A; hepatitis B; and tuberculosis. No China-specific vaccinations are required, but some are recommended. Rh-negative blood may be difficult to obtain; the blood type of the general Asian populace is Rh-positive. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for China.

Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Regional Security Office (RSO) is actively seeking to re-launch the OSAC Beijing Country Council and to establish a regular meeting schedule. Those interested in participating in the Country Council or contacting the RSO should contact OSAC’s Asia-Pacific Team.

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

No. 55 An Jia Lou Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100600

Hours: Monday-Friday 0800-1700 (except U.S. and Chinese holidays)

Website: https://china.usembassy-china.org.cn/embassy-consulates/beijing/

Embassy Operator: +86-10-8531-3000 (24/7)

American Citizen Services: BeijingACS@state.gov

Other U.S. Diplomatic Posts in China

Consulate Chengdu, No. 4 Lingshiguan Road, Chengdu, Sichuan, PRC 610041. +86-28-8558-3992.

Consulate Guangzhou: Huaxia Road, Zhujiang New Town,Tianhe District, Guangzhou. +86-20-3814-5000.

Consulate Shanghai: 1469 Huai Hai Zhong Road, Shanghai, 200031. +86-21 8011-2200.

Consulate Shenyang: No. 52, 14 Wei Road, Heping District, Shenyang, Liaoning Province 110003. +86-24-2322-1198.

Consulate Wuhan: Room 4701, New World International Trade Tower I, No. 568, Jianshe Avenue, Jianghan District, Wuhan 430022. +86-27-8555-7791.

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

OSAC Risk Matrix

OSAC Travelers Toolkit

State Department Traveler’s Checklist

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

China Country Information

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