What to Know about China’s Legal System for Tourists

Travel Tips — By Lauren Johnson on February 16, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Many tourists have the impression that China is something that it simply isn’t. The legal system in place is much better than it has been previously, with more civil rights, fewer restrictions and an advancing legal horde attempting to create precedent in new cases all the time. Still, the legal system isn’t at all similar to the one’s your more familiar with in the Western world. So, there are some things you may want to know about your rights while traveling in Shanghai, China.

1. Don’t assume the embassy will help you. In most cases, your country’s embassy doesn’t want to be involved in any drama that could be considered an international incident. If you break the law abroad you’re stuck paying the legal consequences. Only in extreme cases will your embassy risk and diplomatic setbacks by helping you out. Your best bet is to follow the laws of China during your stay. Feel free to contact them and alert them to your situation and seek advice or legal aid, but don’t expect them to negotiate your way out of jail or send in overt assistance.

2. Drugs are a serious crime in China. Don’t do them, don’t buy them, don’t sell them, don’t even think about them. The laws concerning drugs, even recreational drugs, are severe. If you break these laws there isn’t anything a lawyer or embassy employee can do to help you. Drinking is legal, do that instead.

3. Weapons are mostly illegal in China. Guns are a massive no-no, and you’d have achieved a miracle if you managed to smuggle one into the country in the first place even as a licensed carrier. Leave your guns at home, you won’t need them. The same goes for knives. There is strict security on major transportation systems like the subway, airplanes, long-distance trains. It’s more of a pain than it’s worth to carry a weapon, and you will feel safe while in Shanghai. Muggings are extremely low, rape statistics are extremely low as well, and for the most part crime doesn’t target foreigners with the exception of small-time financial scams. If you are mugged, give away your money and possessions and go to the closest police station– most likely a security camera caught the whole thing. You can’t write an insurance claim without a police report, so always get one.

4. If you find yourself accused of a crime, immediately ask for legal assistance and to talk with your embassy and to contact your family. From there, your legal representative will assist you in the particulars of your case while your family will most likely alert the media and deal with the embassy. Keep in mind that the time between arrest and trial is short in China, and trials are usually a single-day affair. So you’ll need to act fast to defend yourself. China is such a safe country that as a tourist you should never find yourself in a situation where you’re being arrested. Especially if you’re innocent.

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