Local laws and customs

Carry your passport with you at all times. Police carry out random checks, especially during periods of heightened security and major sporting or political events. Failure to produce your ID can lead to a fine or detention. If you renew your passport while you’re in China, you must register your new passport with the authorities promptly or face a fine.

Certain behaviours may be deemed sensitive and attract greater scrutiny from the authorities, including photography near sensitive sites, engaging with political groups or charities, and making statements deemed to be politically sensitive.

Chinese laws and procedures relating to the arrest and detention of suspects of crime are different from in the UK. If you’re suspected of a crime, the Chinese authorities have the power to prevent you from leaving China (by withholding your passport or applying a travel ban) or to detain you for up to 37 days without charge. Travel bans may also be imposed on individuals involved in commercial or private disputes. If you’re detained on grounds of national security, which is interpreted more broadly than in the UK, you may be detained for up to 6 months before formal arrest and may be denied legal representation before charges are brought.

There are extremely severe penalties for drugs offences in China, including the death penalty. The Chinese authorities undertake random drug testing on foreign nationals including on entry to the country. If you test positive, the Chinese authorities can prosecute you regardless of where or when you consumed drugs. Police raids on homes also occur; if drugs are found in your property, penalties can be extremely severe.

There have been increasing incidences of police raids on nightclubs and bars. When such raids take place, patrons will be subject to on the spot drug testing and immigration checks. This may involve being kept at the location, or a secondary location, for several hours whilst hair and urine samples are taken and passport and visa checks conducted. Testing positive to drugs, or being found in breach of your visa conditions, can lead to heavy fines, detention and deportation.

China doesn’t recognise dual nationality. If you enter China on a Chinese passport or identity card, the British Embassy may not be able to offer you help. If you were born in China to a Chinese national parent you will be considered by the Chinese authorities to have Chinese nationality, and may be treated as a Chinese citizen, even if you used a British passport to enter China. If you have formally renounced Chinese citizenship, you should carry clear evidence that you have done so.

The Chinese authorities maintain controls on internet access. Some services, including Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are permanently blocked. Other websites may be blocked from time to time.

China’s cyber security laws are changing and online products and services (eg VPNs) are required to be licensed by the Chinese government. More information is available on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology website (in Mandarin only). Make sure you stay informed and follow Chinese law.

Gambling is illegal in mainland China.

There are restrictions on certain religious activities, including preaching and distributing religious materials. The Falun Gong movement is banned in China.

Although homosexuality is not prohibited by law, public attitudes are less tolerant than in the UK and public displays of affection may attract negative attention. There’s no provision under Chinese legislation guaranteeing freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. You can find information on LGBT life in China on the British Embassy website. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.