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

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China 2019 Crime & Safety Report: Shenyang

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses China at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution due to arbitrary enforcement of local laws as well as special restrictions on dual U.S.-Chinese nationals.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Consulate General in Shenyang does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS unit cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment and assumes no responsibility for the quality of services provided.

Review OSAC’s China-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Based in northeast China, the U.S. Consulate General in Shenyang consular district serves Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang Provinces.

Crime Threats

Shenyang, with a population of over eight million people, is generally safe when compared with major urban areas of comparable size. The police and security service presence deters most serious crime, though petty crime does occur with some regularity. The economy of parts of northeastern China, and Liaoning province in particular, has lagged behind much of the rest of China in recent years. This has resulted in social frictions, which are a root cause of much of the economic crime experienced in the region.

Shenyang, as well as other major cities of northeastern China, has a large migrant population made up of laborers from the countryside and smaller towns. This population increases during warmer months when large construction projects are in full swing, and ebbs during the colder months when construction slows. Workers often live in large, temporary housing structures on-site that move from one construction project to the next. This migrant population has been associated with certain crimes (e.g. petty thefts, assaults, etc.), which may be fueled in part by opportunity, alcohol, and desperation.

Shenyang, like most of northeastern China, has a small expatriate community. The most common crimes affecting Westerners are crimes of opportunity (e.g. purse snatching, pickpocketing, taxi-fare extortion, and counterfeit currency). Though criminal elements do not specifically target Westerners, they sometimes fall prey to these crimes, especially around tourist centers.

Violent crime is relatively uncommon. Violent crime affecting the expatriate community most often involves alcohol and occurs in bars, clubs, and other nightlife establishments. Prostitutes and drugs are present in some clubs and karaoke bars.

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.

Fraud and corruption persist in northeastern China, although in recent years the central government’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign has seen a large number of officials in the region investigated and arrested.

The distribution of counterfeit Chinese currency is a recurring risk in China. Unsuspecting visitors receive fraudulent notes at restaurants, stores, ATMs, and in taxicabs. Large numbers of 100 RMB and 50 RMB counterfeit notes are regularly in circulation, and even smaller denominations (such 10 RMB and 20 RMB notes) have been introduced.

Criminals use various other scams to defraud foreign victims. Scams involve locals approaching tourists and asking to practice English, visit an art house, or experience a traditional tea ceremony. After tourists partake in the services, they are charged very high sums (up to US$1,000), often with a group of threatening men demanding payment.

Another scam involves prostitutes taking foreigners to a room, where organized crime elements assaulted and robbed them, and force them to use credit/debit cards to access additional cash.

Scam artists have also sent text messages and emails referring to fraudulent bills and/or traffic tickets to trick people into paying money. Other techniques involve criminals posing as police and levying fake criminal charges against their victims, and then extorting money from them.

Cybersecurity Issues

China is infamous for the use of sophisticated cyber capabilities (e.g. spear phishing, targeting of mobile devices, and social engineering/social network manipulation). Viruses, malware, and other forms of malicious software are common.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Road Safety and Road Conditions

All drivers must possess a Chinese driver’s license. International or U.S. licenses are not valid.

The physical road conditions in larger cities are generally good, while driving conditions in rural areas off major highways are usually poor. Roads in Shenyang are extremely crowded, and many drivers are new to operating a motor vehicle. Drivers are often either overly cautious or aggressive, resulting in numerous accidents every day. Drivers rarely adhere to traffic laws, and policing occurs remotely by video camera (mainly through speed traps). Yielding to oncoming traffic/pedestrians and signaling one’s intentions in advance are virtually unheard of. Traffic signals are absent at key locations, stop signs are often non-existent, and road closures are poorly marked, if at all. Incidents of individuals driving while impaired are also relatively common. Do not overreact to aggressive driving by local nationals; attempt to defuse the situation in a safe and timely manner. 

Busy roads often lack shoulders, and drivers often contend with many bicycles in driving lanes. Where there are shoulders, cars generally use them as another travel lane, especially on crowded highways. It is common to see drivers reverse on the highway to get to an exit they missed, stop on the side of the highway to drop off passengers and slowly merge into high-speed travel lanes, or veer horizontally across several lanes of traffic to get to an off ramp.

Most accidents are minor and resolved on the scene. Vehicles must carry insurance; it is not uncommon for drivers either to contact their insurance company for minor damage or settle a dispute between themselves. Cars must remain at the scene of an accident and must not pull over to the side of the road until police arrive. In traffic accidents, the foreigner is often at fault, regardless of the actual cause of the accident. Do not to argue with the other party involved in a traffic accident regardless of who is responsible.

Commercial transportation accidents involving motorized transportation are relatively common due to poor driver training, overloaded buses, and a lack of safety checks.

Public Transportation Conditions

Passengers rarely use seat belts -- taxi drivers sometimes discourage passengers from wearing them. The average fare for a ride in downtown Shenyang starts at 8 RMB and increases 1 RMB with every kilometer. Avoid traveling in “black taxis” that do not use meters or do not clearly display a taxi license on the dashboard. Marked taxicabs are generally safe. Insist that the cab driver use the meter; however, it is not uncommon to agree to a set rate. In a limited number of cases, U.S. taxi patrons have reported their luggage stolen or receiving exorbitant fares. Luggage theft typically involves a taxi transporting individuals to/from the airport with the driver intentionally leaving the scene before unloading the bags. Avoid any individuals who approach passengers at the airport offering a taxi service; they will often charge fares that are 2-3 times the standard rate.

Buses are frequent and convenient, with routes connecting many parts of the city. Bus passengers may be prone to petty theft and pickpocketing. Tickets for the bus cost about 2 RMB depending on the distance traveled.

Shenyang has two metro lines that run perpendicular to one another; Line 1 runs east-west and Line 2 runs north-south. Metro tickets cost about 2 RMB depending on the distance traveled.

Shenyang is linked via high-speed rail lines (gao tie) to many major cities, including Dalian, Changchun, Harbin, Dandong, and Beijing. Slower inter-city rail lines connect Shenyang with dozens of other smaller cities in the northeast. Trains and train stations are extremely overcrowded during holiday travel periods such as the Lunar New Year.

Few taxi drivers, bus operators, or train station attendants speak/read any English. If staying at a hotel, get a hotel business card with the name and address of the hotel in Chinese.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Domestic flight delays are common, which often makes travel planning difficult and too unpredictable for weekend trips. These delays may result from sudden military closures, among other factors, and are not announced or explained.

Terrorism Threat

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There is minimal risk from terrorism in Shenyang. China’s domestic counterterrorism efforts remain primarily focused against the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM, also known as the East Turkestan Islamic Party, or ETIP), a Pakistan-based terrorist group, which seeks independence for the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of northwestern China. In public statements, Chinese government officials have singled out the “Three Evils” of extremism, separatism, and terrorism in Xinjiang as the main terrorist threat to the nation and characterized Uighur discontent as terrorist activity. Human rights organizations maintain that China uses counterterrorism as a pretext to suppress Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group comprising a large percentage of the population in Xinjiang.

Indigenous terrorism is not a principal security concern in northeastern China, and there are no known terrorist organizations based or conducting operations in the region.

In 2015, a SWAT team component of the Shenyang Public Security Bureau reportedly killed three Uighur terrorist suspects from XUAR in a central Shenyang residential district.

The lack of transparency and information provided by Chinese authorities and media about alleged terrorist incidents greatly complicates efforts to verify the details of those and other violent acts. In many of the domestic incidents labeled as terrorism, China alleges that ETIM influenced or directed the violence through its online propaganda. The government prevents foreign journalists and international observers from independently verifying official media accounts, which are often the only source of reporting on violent incidents in its territory.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest

There is minimal risk from civil unrest in Shenyang. Police are generally quick to react to violent outbreaks, sometimes using force to subdue disturbances. Political violence may be more moderate in Shenyang than in other parts of the country. The government remains focused on maintaining social stability and preventing civil unrest over economic and social grievances.

Protests outside of official U.S. facilities occur occasionally, but gatherings are typically small, relatively peaceful, and generally focused against the Chinese government. Geopolitical events often influence the occurrence of political demonstrations, but such demonstrations are rarely out of the control of Chinese security services.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

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 ethnic Han Chinese interests.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Earthquakes, floods, mudslides, and other natural disasters are common throughout China and can occur at any time with little or no warning.

The largest environmental hazard affecting northeastern China is the bitter cold. Temperatures often remain well below freezing for several months; heavy snowstorms can leave motorists stranded and bring cities to a standstill.

Other natural disasters include the threat of typhoons and tsunamis along the coastal region.

Critical Infrastructure Concerns

Worker safety and quality assurance are lacking in China; accidents plague China’s heavy industries. Over the past few years, several gas pipeline explosions leading to building fires and other damage have occurred in the Shenyang area.

Economic Concerns

Business travelers should be particularly mindful that trade secrets, negotiating positions, and other business sensitive information might leak to competitors, counterparts, and/or Chinese regulatory and legal entities.

Counterfeit products are readily available. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have the authority to seize suspect goods and impose fines on travelers caught attempting to enter the U.S. with counterfeit items.

Privacy Concerns

U.S. government personnel must avoid discussing sensitive information in their homes, vehicles, or offices. Members of the private sector should take similar precautions to safeguard sensitive personal and proprietary information.

Maintain no expectation of privacy in public or private locations. There are regular reports of the human and technical monitoring of U.S. private businesspersons and visiting U.S. citizens alike. The areas around U.S. and other foreign diplomatic facilities and residences are under overt physical and video surveillance; dozens of security personnel stand watch outside of facilities and around residences, while video cameras are visible throughout diplomatic offices and residential neighborhoods. Overt placement of microphones and video cameras are common in 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/knowledge. Authorities may search personal possessions, including computers, in hotel rooms without the knowledge/consent of the owner. Elevators and public areas of housing compounds are under continuous surveillance.

Chinese authorities monitor all means of communication (e.g. telephones, mobile phones, faxes, emails, text messages). 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.

China blocks many popular services and websites (e.g. Google, Twitter, and Facebook). 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, access the device’s address book and photos, track the user’s location, or even activate the microphone/camera. Bloggers are subject to particular scrutiny, and may have content blocked depending on the profile, following, and content.

Personal Identity Concerns

In recent years, U.S. citizens and of other countries visiting or resident in China have reported interrogation or detainment for reasons said to relate to “state security.” In such circumstances, individuals could face arrest, detention, or an exit ban 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.

Reports of discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, disability, etc. are relatively uncommon.

Drug-related Crimes

The Chinese government is concerned about domestic drug use, and enforcement efforts are widespread. Illicit drugs still reportedly remain available to both Chinese and expatriates. Drug use may result in harsh sentences and fines. Drug dealing can result in the death penalty.

Police Response

Police response for foreign victims of crime depends upon the type of infraction, where it transpired, and the social status of the victim (e.g. private citizen, diplomat, VIP, foreigner). Local police are semi-effective at deterring crime, but response times may vary. 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 is improving, but remains substandard compared to that of developed countries. Local police cooperation with the Consulate remains scant, and requests for assistance are often unmet.

Crime Victim Assistance

If U.S. citizens become the victim of a crime, contact the police by dialing 110, though English-language capabilities may vary significantly. They may also contact American Citizen Services (ACS) at the Consulate. ACS officers can recommend appropriate medical facilities, provide contact information for local attorneys, notify family members, and explain how to transfer funds to 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 is in agreement 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 has to 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 he/she narrates 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.

In the case of a stolen U.S. passport, you must apply not only for a new passport at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate but also for a new visa. To receive a new visa, Chinese officials will require you file a police report about the stolen passport at the police station nearest to where the theft occurred. Individuals may have to file a report at the local Entry/Exit Bureau as well. Victims of passport theft should file a police report as soon as possible.

Medical Emergencies

Although medical care continues to improve in many urban areas, it continues to lag in northeastern China. Because Western medical centers are not available in northeastern China, U.S. citizens generally should seek out the VIP section (gao gan bing fang) at large public hospitals, where there are more likely to be Western-trained physicians and modern medical equipment.

Both municipal and private ambulance service 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 congested traffic conditions. Most ambulances are poorly equipped, and staffed only by individuals without English skills who lack Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training.

Contact Information for Available Hospitals/Clinics

For medical assistance, refer to the Consulate’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

The availability of air ambulance services varies by city. International SOS is the main Western air ambulance provider along China's east coast. MEDEX also provides regional air ambulance services.

Insurance Guidance

Payment of hospital and other expenses is the patient’s responsibility. Before you go abroad, learn what medical services your health insurance will cover overseas. If your health insurance policy provides coverage outside the U.S., remember to carry both your insurance policy identity card as proof of such insurance 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 U.S. Medical evacuation (medevac) by air is expensive: $60,000 - $100,000 per flight depending upon the patient's condition and final destination. Strongly consider purchasing medevac insurance prior to traveling to China.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Air pollution is a significant problem in northern China. Pollutants such as particle pollution link 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. U.S. citizens living in or traveling to China should consult their doctor prior to traveling to areas with significant air pollution and should take precautions while in China. The U.S. Embassy and Consulates have air quality monitors to measure PM 2.5 particulates as an indication of the air quality.

OSAC Country Council Information

Although U.S. Consulate Shenyang does not have an active OSAC Country Council, the Regional Security Office (RSO) routinely receives individual requests for information from the U.S. private sector. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Asia Pacific team with any questions.

U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information

Consulate Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Consulate Shenyang, #52, 14 Wei Road, Heping District, Shenyang 110003

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

Consulate Contact Numbers

Phone: +86-24-2322-1198

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

Nearby Posts: Embassy Beijing, Consulate Chengdu, Consulate Guangzhou, Consulate Shanghai, Consulate Wuhan

Additional Resource: China Country Information Sheet

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