A few weeks ago, I did a post emphasizing the need to follow China’s laws so as to avoid jail time. My point (taken straight from Aimee Barnes) was that what actions that may be overlooked in your home country of Australia or the United States or some other Western country very well may be deemed to be criminal in China.
I just read a Sydney Morning Herald article on how an Australian mother of four spent two nights in a Thai jail and is facing a potential five years in prison for allegedly having taken a bar mat. I am not saying this same thing could happen in China, but then again, I am also not saying it could not. This article on the mom in Thailand ought to convince you that what happens in the West is not necessarily what will happen in Thailand or in China. Or as Apple would say, Think Different.

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Dan Harris

I am a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

I mostly represent companies doing business in emerging market countries. It has taken me many years to build my network and it takes constant communication and travel to maintain it. My work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

I was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, I am AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), I am rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (its highest rating), and I am a SuperLawyer.

I am a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and I constantly travel between the United States and Asia. I most commonly speak on China law issues and I am the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog (www.chinalawblog.com). Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed me regarding various aspects of my international law practice.

I am licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at my firm, I focus on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.

  • Dan, some of the stories I’ve been told by expats who found themeselves in hot water with China’s law enforcement convince me that what happened in the Thai jail could certainly happen in China, perhaps for lesser offenses. (As I write this, I am thinking about a pen, a visa, a purse, and a charge of “tampering” as relayed to me by an acquaintance) It is best for everyone in China to keep both eyes WIDE open between now and October- I think we’re in for a few more tales but I certainly hope I’m wrong.

  • Tony

    Thailand is really going out of its way to encourage tourism. Political instability and now this. Plenty of other places to visit.
    So, there’s been a lot of posts on, follow the law in China. The question is, how do you know what the laws are? Obviously businesses should use American and Chinese attorneys. But that’s not feasible for tourists. Usually common sense is your guide, but that doesn’t seem to work in Thailand where they put you in jail for multiple days for something like this.

  • Daniel

    Dan, was on my way to help a friend who spoke no Mandarin in an altercation with cab drivers. On the way I called the cops to help sort it out. Then I started dreading, and preparing myself, for the fact I might’ve been spending the night in jail.

  • Jerome Cole

    When you get into any kind of dispute and it starts to turn ugly it is often better to give in, even if it feels unjust. Getting into confrontations with people in third world countries that have a shaky grasp of the rule of law is very bad idea. It is an even worse idea if you can’t speak the language well. If you can, give them what they want and walk away.

  • Dan

    Aimee,
    Unfortunately, I think you are right.

  • Dan

    Tony,
    I have to disagree. Common sense is crucial and common sense says don’t steal anything, no matter how small an item it may be.

  • Dan

    Daniel,
    So what ended up happening?

  • Dan

    Jerome,
    Good advice!

  • A difference between European and Asian attitudes/police was explained to me by a friend in Singapore recently…
    In Europe it’s possible to solve a situation after it’s become a problem, in Asia you have to solve situations before they become a problem – once you have a problem, you have a real problem.