Local laws and customs
The Chinese criminal justice system differs greatly from the UK’s. Police have the power to arrest, detain or withhold your passport if you are suspected of a crime. Suspects may be detained for weeks or months before charges are laid or given a travel ban preventing them from leaving China. Courts don’t generally grant bail to foreigners. Travel bans can also be imposed on people involved in private or commercial disputes.
There is a list of English-speaking lawyers on the Embassy’s website. Some lawyers may be reluctant to accept cases involving foreigners. Contact the British Embassy or Consulate if you experience such difficulties.
The Chinese authorities undertake random drug testing on foreign nationals including on entry to the country. If a foreign national tests positive, the Chinese authorities can prosecute regardless of where or when the drugs had been consumed. There have been a number of recent incidences in Beijing of police raids on clubs and bars. The police have asked individuals to give urine samples to check on consumption of illicit substances. There are extremely severe penalties for drugs offences, including the death penalty. A British national was executed in China for a drugs offence in December 2009. Other foreign nationals have been sentenced to death for drugs offences since then. On 1 January 2014, Khat (or Qat) was classified as an illegal drug in China and now carries the same penalties as other illegal drugs.
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 consular assistance. Any person born in China to a Chinese national parent will be considered by the Chinese authorities to have Chinese nationality. Travellers holding British passports who also hold Chinese citizenship may be regarded by the Chinese authorities as a Chinese citizen, even if you travel to China on a British passport. If you have formally renounced Chinese citizenship, you should carry clear evidence that you have done so.
Foreign nationals over 16 years of age must carry their passport with them 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.
The Chinese authorities maintain controls on internet access. Websites like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are blocked. Other websites or e-mail services (especially Google and Gmail) are blocked from time to time.
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.
China has its own laws and regulations on endangered wildlife trade and transportation, and is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and Flora (CITES). Anyone who intends to move wildlife products into or out of China must check with the relevant Chinese authorities or a lawyer first. Carrying, transporting, posting endangered wildlife and its products including ivory without permission could violate CITES or relevant Chinese laws and result in a fine, confiscation of property, detention and/or imprisonment.