With all the arrests of Canadians and Americans and English teachers (we are getting 1-2 emails from arrested English teachers every week), our China lawyers have been getting a slew of emails from clients and readers asking whether they should or should not go to China and what they should do to avoid arrest if they do go.
I personally am never quite sure how to answer clients who ask me this question. I cannot tell them “just go and don’t worry” because even though the odds of their having a problem are exceedingly low, the last thing I want to do is have someone get arrested and then blame me for not having “told them so.” So what I usually say is that they need to balance their need to go to China against the risks. How though do you calculate the risks?
There is no one way to calculate the risk of getting arrested in China, but the following are what can change that calculus one way or the other.
- Going to China on a U.S. or a Canada passport increases your risk.
- If you have a China WFOE that has not paid all its taxes and or is otherwise not in full compliance with China’s laws or has announced that it will be closing down, your risks are higher.
- If you should have a WFOE in China but you don’t have a WFOE in China See Doing Business in China Without a WFOE: Will the Defendant Please Rise.
- If you go to China on the wrong visa or you overstay your visa, your risks will increase. WARNING: The English teachers who write us are from all over the world but what they all have in common is that their employer did not properly hire them. Two years ago, we absolutely never heard of English teachers getting arrested for this, but nowadays we hear about this all the time, even though the bad actors are their Chinese employers. Fortunately, these teachers are being jailed for only a week or two and then they are allowed to leave.
- Do not do anything illegal while you are in China. Do not buy or consume illegal drugs, including cannabis. Do not get into a fight, even if provoked. If your taxi driver or your bartender or anyone else tries to rip you off, seriously consider just paying the overcharge and move on.
The risks are really low, but it does pay to be careful.