Are you worried about getting arrested in China? There is a lot of news about foreigners getting in trouble.
Here is what you need to know about the criminal law system in China. We will focus on how criminal law ties into business (they are connected.)
If you have already been arrested, or think you are about to be, you can fill out the form on this page.
Assuming you escaped, and you are not sure if you will be arrested if you go back to China, we can help.
One of our lawyers can speak to the police and try and negotiate for you. You need to be very careful of exit bans.
Keep in mind that if you don’t do anything dangerous in China, it is very unlikely that you will be arrested.
Doing things like selling drugs or stealing is a simple way to get arrested in any country.
Your Government Won’t Be Able To Help
Let’s say you are from England, and you go to China and get arrested. Don’t assume that the British government can get you out of jail.
You are subject to the laws of the country you go to. If a Chinese person goes to England, they can’t say they are following Chinese law.
This is why it’s so important that you hire a lawyer in China. Prevention is the best way to deal with criminal and business problems.
A lawyer can tell you how to stay out of trouble.
The Chinese legal system is very different than that of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. For example, you do not have the right to remain silent.
According to Chinese law, you must provide information about yourself and others involved. This is also true of businesses.
A company that operates in China must provide all information to the government.
The police have the right to hold you for over a year without charging you. Again, your government won’t be able to help you much during this time.
You also won’t be able to see your friends or family.
Getting Questioned By The Police
A lot of foreigners go to jail over fights. Sometimes someone does something to a foreigner, and the foreigner might punch a Chinese person.
Other times arguments can happen when there is a car accident. Crowds get involved, and people start filming.
People can feel that it’s inappropriate for someone from another country to hit someone who’s Chinese.
Crowds can turn against foreigners pretty quickly. It doesn’t matter who is at fault. People can get beat up by the crowd.
The police will often show up and arrest everyone. Someone who gets arrested will be brought to the police station.
There will then be an interrogation, where the police will try and get you to confess to the crime.
Sometimes people give a written confession to get out of jail. But be careful of this. This can lead to evidence being used against you in a lawsuit.
Even if a Chinese person from another city gets arrested in Shanghai, they might be considered to be similar to a foreigner.
Getting Arrested In China At The Police Station
You might see there are a lot of people at the police station that is there for things like fights, not paying someone money, or putting business promotional stickers on the walls.
Prostitution can also lead to getting arrested.
The police can hang you up by your hands and beat you up. This is not against the law.
Be very careful in getting in fights with Chinese people as a foreigner. It’s best to gather evidence and sue the person if they hit you.
Sometimes fights happen when a taxi driver tries to take advantage of a foreigner. This happens very often in Shanghai.
The driver might say that their meter is broken (every time) and that they want a flat fee.
They might ask for $50 for a ride that was only meant to cost $10 if the meter “had worked.”
Sometimes it’s best for the foreigner to just pay the medical bill of the Chinese person. This should resolve the issue.
However, if the police don’t let you go, you should contact one of our criminal lawyers.
Foreign Nationals Arrested
Here is a situation that we made up that explains what happens when foreign nationals are arrested.
Let’s say that you arrive from London, England in Shanghai. When you get to the border crossing at the airport, your passport gets swiped.
The border police agent goes to talk to their supervisor, and they come back to the counter. You might get told to go to the immigration inspection room.
There will be police in the area who are making phone calls. If your situation is not serious, you might be told that you need to return to England.
The police will contact the airline you came in on to book a trip back home.
Here are some general tips for what to do if you are arrested, not just in China.
The first thing you normally want to do when you get arrested is to get out of jail.
Being in jail is very stressful and can hurt your case. Someone who goes to court in handcuffs looks a lot worse than someone who shows up in a taxi in a suit.
It’s very important to get bail.
Public Security And Law Enforcement
It’s important that you get a private lawyer. Don’t use a legal aid or public defender if you can afford a law firm.
This isn’t because the legal aid lawyer doesn’t know what they are doing.
It’s often because they have too many files, and cannot prepare much for their hearings. All they do is get the file and show up.
Sometimes the public defender is only given a few hours to get ready for court.
You might need to follow up with your lawyer and ask questions. This is also true if you hire a law firm, sometimes you need to follow up.
Once you get out of jail, you will need to prepare for your arraignment or first appearance.
You will need to show up to say if you are pleading guilty or not guilty.
When you say you are not guilty, it starts the legal system process. If you say you are guilty, it normally goes to a sentencing hearing.
If you want to learn about the law in China, contact us. You should get legal advice from a Chinese criminal lawyer.
Most of the time, the prisons in China will not allow you to be transferred to your home country prison.
Punishment According To Chinese Criminal Law
Below are the main sentences that a Chinese court makes.
(1) Having to be followed by police wherever you go
(2) Spending time detained
(3) Being sentenced to a period in jail
(4) Jail for life
(5) Given the death penalty
Below are sentencing for non-major crimes:
(1) A fine
(2) Confiscation of assets
(3) Being banned from China
Make Sure You Have All Your Licenses And Visas
One easy way to increase your chances of getting detained is to not have the proper paperwork.
If you are selling products in China without a license, the police will likely take you down. As a foreigner, you are going to be watched.
If you do anything illegal, the police might want to make an example of you.
This is why you should hire a business lawyer in China to make sure you have the right business license.
You also need to operate under the right visa or permit.
If you are doing business without a visa or permit, and not paying taxes, you are going to get in trouble.
Arrested In China
You also need to have tight contracts with your employees and suppliers.
Most police investigations start when an employee or other company gets into a dispute with a foreigner.
The Chinese employee reports the business to the police. The same day, the foreigner is arrested.
You better have strong paperwork so that you can quickly get out of jail. Your lawyer is not allowed to be in the room while the police ask you questions.
This is why it’s so important to have the right documents with government or court stamps on them.
Most criminal investigations can also lead to lawsuits. If someone gets into trouble because of you, they will likely file a lawsuit in China.
Chinese Criminal Trial
The same law applies to Chinese people and people who visit China. There is no special law for foreigners.
Often if you get into a contract dispute with a Chinese company, they will ask the police to exit ban you.
This will make sure you can’t leave the country without paying the money. Keep in mind that lawsuits go on for years.
This means that you can’t leave China possible for years.
Make sure you hire a lawyer that can speak English and Mandarin. You also want a lawyer that focuses on criminal law.
Don’t hire the lawyer you used for your divorce. You also want a lawyer in the city where you were arrested in.
If you were arrested in Beijing, you need a Beijing criminal lawyer. Many people make serious mistakes when hiring a lawyer.
Others don’t hire a lawyer at all, because they assume the “truth” will get them out. Keep in mind that the truth won’t come out during the trial.
Arrested In China
Therefore, you could spend years in jail waiting for the “truth.” That is far too risky.
Your local lawyer should have contacts in the city. For example, your Beijing criminal lawyer might be able to call the chief of police in Tongzhou.
They can meet for lunch and discuss your case. Your lawyer can show the police chief why you are innocent.
If you wait for a judge, it’s going to take years.
How much would you spend on a lawyer to avoid spending years in a Chinese jail?
The judgment pronouncement will normally be submitted in writing, not read out at the end of the trial.
If you fear getting arrested in China, contact us so our Chinese lawyers can help.
How NOT To Get Arrested In China
- Don’t talk about sensitive topics
- Do not assume the laws in China are the same as in your national country
- Don’t talk bad about the government
- Do not get into fights
- Don’t bring Cannabis (CBD or THC) into China, it’s illegal
- Have proper contracts with your employees and contractors
Author: Alistair Vigier is the CEO of Clearway and can be reached on Wechat at: alistairvigier