Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Consulate in Chengdu 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.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED CHENGDU AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS.
Please review OSAC’s China-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Chengdu, with a population of approximately 14 million people, is generally safe when compared to urban areas of similar size. The northern sector of the city, especially near the train station, has a slightly higher rate of crime. The robust police and security service serves to deter most serious crimes, while petty crime does occur with some regularity.
As a general rule, lesser developed areas in major cities have a higher rate of crime. Statistically, more crimes of opportunity transpire during early morning hours; for example, individuals who frequent bars, nightclubs and similar establishments are more likely to be involved in physical altercations after midnight.
The income disparity in Chinese society has been a source of social friction and has been identified as a root cause of much of the economic crime – pickpocketing, credit card fraud, financial scams – often targeting foreigners. Chengdu and Sichuan province experience less financial crime and scams in comparison to southeastern provinces, but such crimes do occur. Victims are often targeted because of their perceived wealth. Pickpocketing on public transportation, in shopping areas, and at tourist sites is quite common. Street crimes in Chengdu are often perpetrated by unemployed ethnic Chinese minorities from outside provinces who work in teams and use distraction techniques to commit pickpocketing, purse snatching, and fraud. Some are believed to be armed with knives, even if they are not routinely brandished.
Chongqing municipality had a serious organized crime problem, but in recent years, authorities have successfully and publicly tackled it.
Violent crime is less common but does occur. Violent crime affecting the expatriate community most often occurs in bars and clubs. Bar fights are often sparked by excessive drinking, insults regarding ethnicity/nationality, and disputes over women. Bar fights usually result in foreigners being overwhelmed by numerous locals. The legal age for consuming alcohol is 18; however, most establishments do not require identification. Some bars are overcrowded, and safety standards are routinely not enforced. Prostitutes and drugs are present in some clubs.
Scenes of domestic violence or assault have been encountered 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 for assistance.
Criminals use various scams to defraud foreign victims.
- One scam involves 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.
- 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.
- Another scam involves prostitutes taking foreigners to a room, where they are assaulted and robbed by organized crime elements. Victims are forced to use their credit/debit cards to access additional cash. Such robberies usually begin in bars and clubs frequented by foreigners.
China is known for the use of sophisticated cyber capabilities, including spear phishing, targeting of mobile devices, and social engineering/network manipulation. Viruses, malware, and other forms of malicious software are common.
Other Areas of Concern
On January 1, 2017, China implemented a new law regulating the operations of foreign NGOs. This law requires foreign NGOs to register with the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and limits the scope of their funding and activities. The law states that foreign NGOs must not undermine or damage China’s national interests. The MPS has published foreign NGO registration guidelines on its website, though some requirements/procedures remain unclear. Employees of foreign NGOs should be aware that the Chinese government’s application, interpretation, and implementation of these guidelines could vary widely. The Consulate recommends that any entity that might be characterized as a foreign NGO, particularly those working in sensitive areas or fields, consult with a local lawyer regarding the legal requirements and procedures for registration.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
The physical road conditions in cities are generally good; in contrast, driving conditions in rural areas are usually poor. Driving outside the city in darkness should be avoided due to poor lighting and road hazards (stopped vehicles, other obstructions). More and newly registered vehicles are added to the roads every day, causing increased congestion and traffic problems.
The greatest road hazard is the Chinese driver; most have little experience operating motor vehicles and are overly cautious/aggressive, resulting in numerous accidents every day. Commercial transportation accidents involving motorized vehicles are not uncommon. Trucks are often overloaded, and drivers are poorly trained. Traffic laws are rarely adhered to, and policing is done 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, and road closures are either poorly, or not at all, marked. Traffic in Chengdu is more hazardous and chaotic than other parts of China, as drivers and riders are extremely unpredictable.
Electric scooters are numerous and maneuver through all available gaps in traffic, often in total silence. At night, operators of electric scooters and bicycles do not use lights to indicate their presence.
Most accidents are minor and are resolved on the scene. Cars must remain at the scene of the accident and are not expected to pull over to the side of the road. In traffic accidents involving foreigners, the foreigner is often ruled at fault, regardless. Employees are encouraged not to react to aggressive driving by local nationals and to defuse the situation in a safe, expeditious manner.
All drivers must possess a Chinese driver’s license. International or U.S. licenses are not valid.
Public Transportation Conditions
Taxis are inexpensive and relatively reliable. Personnel should not have to negotiate the price of a trip. If the taxi driver refuses to use the meter, take a different taxi. Personnel are encouraged to use marked cabs, not unofficial cabs. The use of unregistered taxi cabs continues to be a concern. In a limited number of cases, Americans have reported having their luggage stolen and being charged exorbitant fares. Luggage theft typically involves a taxi transporting individuals to/from the airport with the driver intentionally leaving before bags are unloaded. This can occur with either type of taxi.
Uber and similar ride sharing services are popular, and many community members report using these services without incident. However, conflicts between drivers and other taxi services or law enforcement have been reported.
Public transportation in major metropolitan areas is comparatively modern. Buses, subways, and taxis are of relatively new design. However, buses and trains are often crowded.
There are numerous domestic and international flights out of Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU). Flight delays are normal, often making travel planning difficult and too unpredictable for weekend trips. Delays may result from sudden military closures, among other factors, and are not announced/explained to passengers.
When traveling from Chengdu airport into town afterhours, taxis will often refuse the meter and try to charge a higher flat rate. Reminding the taxi driver will often get them to activate, if reluctantly, the meter. Touts will also try to convince arriving passengers to use unregistered taxis, which often will attempt charge exorbitant rates.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED CHENGDU AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
China’s domestic counterterrorism efforts remain primarily focused against the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM, the East Turkestan Islamic Party (ETIP)), a Pakistan-based terrorist group that seeks independence for the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of northwestern China. 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 have 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. Some notable incidents include:
- On September 30, 2015, a series of parcel bombs targeted public buildings in Liuzhou, Guanxi province, killing 17 people and wounding approximately 50 others. The government attributed the bombings to the actions a lone criminal.
- On May 22, 2014, two SUVs with five assailants drove into a market in Urumqi and threw explosives at shoppers. The vehicles crashed into shoppers, collided with each other, and exploded. The attack resulted in 43 dead, including four of the assailants, and wounded more than 90. One attacker was arrested. Official media labeled it a terrorist attack.
- On May 6, 2014, a knife wielding man wounded six people, including one Westerner, at a train station in Guangzhou. The government did not label this as a terrorist event.
- On May 1, 2014, two assailants set off explosives and stabbed passersby outside Urumqi’s largest train station, killing themselves and one other person and injuring 79. Official media labeled it a terrorist attack by religious extremists.
- On March 1, 2014, eight attackers armed with knives killed 29 people and wounded 143 at a train station in Kunming. The government labeled the incident a terrorist act and blamed Islamic extremists from Xinjiang. Four of the attackers were shot and killed, three were sentenced to death, and one was sentenced to life in prison.
Due to government control over media and information, threat information is often limited. As a result, many look to questionable online media outlets. This often generates unverifiable threat reporting.
Protests outside of official U.S. facilities occasionally occur, but gatherings have remained small, very often a single individual, are relatively peaceful, and are generally focused against the Chinese government.
Geo-political events often influence the occurrence of political demonstrations, but such demonstrations are rarely out of the control of security services. There is some concern that rising Chinese nationalism and an at times stressed bilateral relationship could lead to either isolated acts of violence or organized protests against U.S. facilities as witnessed in 1999 after the accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by NATO aircraft.
There were small scale demonstrations against American-branded retail outlets following the announcement of The Hague Arbitration ruling invalidating China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The most notable terrorist activity affecting the official American presence in China occurred in 2010 when a Chinese national threw a Molotov cocktail at the U.S. Consulate Chengdu perimeter wall. The man was apprehended by police. Though his motive was not clearly identified, local police assessed the man as mentally ill and released him. Authorities do not detain the mentally ill, even if they prove to be potentially dangerous. Several months after the incident at the Consulate, the same man threw burning oil on a group of European visitors in the center of Chengdu, severely injuring a young woman. Again, his motive was not clearly identified, and he was again released by the police.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED CHENGDU AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
While Chinese society overall remains stable, there has been a noticeable uptick in civil unrest over certain issues. In 2015, labor disputes, environmental concerns, and contested land seizures gave rise to several large-scale protests in southern China. Protestors, regularly numbering in the thousands, clashed with large numbers of riot police. There were small-scale protests in Chengdu in 2016 over air quality. These were quickly shut down, and vigorous attempts were made to erase all signs of their conduct from the Chinese media.
The Chinese government remains focused on maintaining social stability and preventing civil unrest over local 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. The frequency of large-scale violent incidents in Xinjiang has increased significantly since 2015. While the majority of violent incidents occur in Tibet and Xinjiang, a number of incidents reflect that other areas are not immune to religious/ethnic violence.
Severe weather (large snowstorms) has brought parts of China to a virtual standstill. Even smaller-scale storms often lead to multiple traffic accidents; snow removal is typically slow and is accomplished by employing thousands of laborers armed with shovels and brooms.
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Accidents and fatalities continue to plague China’s heavy industries. Worker safety and quality assurance are lacking.
The distribution of counterfeit currency is a common risk in China, both to official and private Americans. Unsuspecting Americans are passed fraudulent notes at restaurants, stores, ATMs, and taxi cabs. Large numbers of 100 RMB and 50 RMB counterfeit notes circulate, while even fake 10 RMB and 20 RMB denominations have also been reported. A common tactic in taxis involves a passenger paying with a 100 RMB note, followed by the driver switching the note with a counterfeit bill, “returning” the bill and rejecting it as counterfeit, and then demanding a genuine note. This can be repeated until individuals have lost significant sums of money.
Counterfeit products are readily available, but it is illegal to import them into the U.S. 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.
U.S. government employees are warned not to discuss sensitive information in their homes, vehicles, or offices. Members of the private sector are strongly advised to take similar precautions to safeguard sensitive personal and/or proprietary information. Business travelers should be particularly mindful that trade secrets, negotiating positions, and other business sensitive information may be taken and shared with competitors, counterparts, and/or Chinese regulatory/legal entities.
All visitors should be aware that they have no expectation of privacy in public or private locations. There are regular reports of human and technical monitoring of U.S. businessmen and visiting U.S. citizens. The areas around U.S. and other foreign diplomatic facilities and residences are under overt physical and video surveillance; dozens of security personnel are posted outside of facilities and around residences, while video cameras are visible throughout the 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 may be monitored onsite or remotely. Hotel rooms, residences, and offices may be accessed at any time without the occupants’ consent/knowledge. Personal possessions, including computers, in hotel rooms may be searched without the knowledge/consent of the owner. Elevators and public areas of housing compounds are under continuous surveillance. In 2016, there was a reported increase in the tampering of locks on the front door of their residences, either suggesting forced entry or resulting in door locks that no longer operated as intended.
All means of communication -- telephones, mobile phones, faxes, emails, text messages -- are likely monitored. 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 more easily access official and personal computers. Official 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 to enable such a connection.
Many popular services and websites are (Google, Twitter, Facebook) are blocked. WeChat and other 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 activate the microphone or camera. Bloggers are subject to particular scrutiny and may have their content blocked depending on the profile, following, and content.
Personal Identity Concerns
U.S. citizens and other countries visiting or resident in China have been interrogated or detained for reasons said to be 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 is concerned about domestic drug use, and enforcement efforts are widespread; however, illicit drugs (heroin, methamphetamines) are available in Chengdu and other parts of western China. Yunnan province and Kunming City have seen an increased level of criminal activity involving illegal drugs smuggled in from neighboring countries in Southeast Asia; Chengdu is considered one of the transportation routes for these drugs. Foreigners are occasionally detained on drug charges.
Kidnappings occur mostly over business disputes and might better be categorized as “unlawful detentions,” often in the office or hotel room of the victim. Victims are generally allowed to use their mobile phones (to arrange the resolution of the dispute) and should immediately call the police for assistance. Some local businesspeople who feel that they have been 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. In addition, travel bans have been placed on foreigners involved in business disputes. The U.S. Department of State has no legal/law enforcement authority in China and cannot get involved in private disputes or give legal advice.
Police response for foreign victims of crime depends upon the type of infraction, where it transpired, and the social status of the victim (private citizen, diplomat, VIP). Urban forces are better trained and equipped, 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 are informed that the victim is a Westerner or 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. Reports of investigations are never provided to the Regional Security Office, despite repeated formal requests.
U.S. Consulate Chengdu experienced several property crimes in 2015 and 2016, and the police were not able to solve or catch any criminals. Although reports were filed, it is highly unlikely that the criminals will ever be found. As of the date of writing, the local police ‘solve’ rate for incidents of theft involving U.S. staff is 0%.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
Police have the authority to detain and deport foreigners for a wide variety of reasons. Travelers who do not have their passport with them may be detained for questioning. If an American is arrested, the U.S.-China Consular Convention requires Chinese authorities to notify the U.S. Embassy/Consulate of the arrest within four days. If a traveler holds the citizenship of another country and entered China using a passport of that country, 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. Bail is rarely granted, and persons can be subject to detention for many months before being granted a trial.
Police officers have the right to assess fines on the scene of an incident. This is sometimes perceived as soliciting for a bribe, but it is not.
Crime Victim Assistance
The local emergency number is 110; however, very few English speakers staff this hotline. Victims should also contact American Citizen Services (ACS) at the Embassy or Consulate for assistance. ACS officers can provide information about local medical facilities, provide contact information for local attorneys, notify family members, and explain how to transfer funds to China.
If a passport is stolen, the victim must not only apply for a new passport at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but 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 may also be directed to file a report at the local Entry/Exit Bureau as well. If someone steals your passport, file the theft with the police right away.
Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service.
Western-style medical facilities with international staff are available in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and a few other large cities. Many other hospitals in major cities have so-called VIP wards (gaogan bingfang) with reasonably up-to-date medical technology and skilled physicians who typically speak English.
In rural areas, only rudimentary medical facilities are generally available. Medical personnel in rural areas are often poorly trained, have limited medical equipment, or limited availability to medications. Rural clinics are often reluctant to accept responsibility for treating foreigners, even in emergency situations.
Ambulances generally do not carry sophisticated medical equipment, and ambulance personnel may have little/no medical training. Traffic congestion can be severe, with no tradition of yielding to emergency vehicles. Therefore, injured or seriously ill Americans may be required to take taxis or other immediately available vehicles to the nearest major hospital rather than waiting for ambulances to arrive.
Contact Information for Available Hospitals/Clinics
International SOS maintains a 24-hour alarm center for visitors to China. SOS representatives can advise on the availability of care in most urban areas. Collect calls are accepted.
Beijing: 400-818-0767 (within China); 86-10-6462-9100 (outside China)
Hong Kong: 852-2528-9900
Huaxi International Hospital (8558-6698 working hours; 8542-2761 after-hours, English available) can arrange an ambulance. Unless specifically requested, ambulances do not come with medical personnel and are purely for transportation. Chengdu traffic seems to routinely ignore emergency sirens from medical and security personnel. As a result, making one’s own way to a hospital can often be a preferred solution.
For non-emergency care, the Consulate often refers staff to Global Doctors at Lippo Tower No. 62 North Kehua Road, Rm 9-11 2nd floor, South entrance (86-28-8528-3638 / (0)139-8225-6966). This clinic is open only during business hours but will provide services after hours for an additional fee.
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.
Medical evacuation is expensive: $60,000 - $100,000 per flight depending upon the patient's condition and final destination. Visitors are strongly encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance prior to travel. The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the U.S. unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the U.S. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. For additional information on medical insurance, check out: Your Health Abroad.
If your health insurance policy provides coverage outside the U.S., 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 U.S.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
No China-specific vaccinations are required to visit, but air quality can be an issue (air quality ratings for Chengdu and other U.S. Mission China posts can be found at the Air Quality Index website). The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for China.
OSAC Country Council Information
Although U.S. Consulate Chengdu does not have an active OSAC Country Council, the RSO routinely receives individual requests for information from the U.S. private sector. Please contact OSAC’s East Asia and the Pacific team with any questions.
U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information
Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Consulate Chengdu
4 Lingshiguan Road, Section 4, Renmin Nan lu
Chengdu, China 610041
Hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1700 (except U.S. and Chinese holidays)
Consulate Contact Numbers
Telephone: 86-28-8558-3992; 86-0-158-2801-8662 (after-hours)
Consular Section Fax: 8554-6229
Embassy Beijing: https://china.usembassy-china.org.cn/
Consulate Guangzhou: https://china.usembassy-china.org.cn/embassy-consulates/guangzhou/
Consulate Shanghai: https://china.usembassy-china.org.cn/embassy-consulates/shanghai/
Consulate Shenyang: https://china.usembassy-china.org.cn/embassy-consulates/shenyang/
Consulate Wuhan: USConsulateWuhan@state.gov
China Country Information Sheet