When visiting China, you should always take routine safety precautions and pay attention to your surroundings. Petty theft remains the most prevalent type of crime encountered. Pickpockets target tourists at sightseeing destinations, airports, crowded subways, markets, and stores. Make sure you guard your passport and wallet, as most incidents tend to involve items kept in back pockets, backpacks, or bags/purses swung over a shoulder or set down in a taxi, another vehicle, a restaurant, or a shop.
Narcotics-related crimes and use are also on the rise in China. Chinese law enforcement authorities have little tolerance for illegal drugs, and they periodically conduct widespread sweeps of bar and nightclub districts, targeting narcotics distributors and drug users. Expatriates from various countries have been detained in such police actions.
Con artists targeting visitors are also common in popular tourist sites. A common scam involves younger Chinese "English students," often women or a couple, offering a local tour and an invitation to tea at a nearby restaurant. When the bill comes, the restaurant owners force victims to pay an exorbitant bill before they can leave the premises.
Taxi drivers, especially at airports, sometimes target arriving travelers, refusing to use the meter or claiming they are a limousine and can charge higher fares. Always have the name of your destination written in Chinese to show the driver, and get a receipt when you arrive at your destination. It is a good practice to keep valuables such as purses, camera bags, and computer cases next to you or in your lap rather than in a less-accessible area of the taxi. Ask the driver to remove the bags from the trunk before you get out of the taxi and before you pay, so he cannot drive away with your luggage.
Do not buy counterfeit or pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States; if you purchase them, you may also be breaking local law. Some U.S. citizens report that items purchased, even at state-owned or museum stores, believed to be antiques or genuine gems are later determined to be reproductions.
Counterfeit currency is a significant concern in China. Cab drivers and businesses have given many people, not just tourists, counterfeit currency. Carrying small bills or using exact change, particularly in taxis, can help protect you. Some merchants will switch a large bill with a counterfeit bill and return it to you, claiming that you passed them the counterfeit bill. If you must pay with RMB 100 bills, it may be useful to note the last few serial numbers before paying in case they get switched. There have been cases of people receiving counterfeit bills from free-standing ATMs. Use only ATMs at financial institutions or those recommended by your hotel.
Political protest is not legal or permitted in China and is rarely encountered by foreigners. Travelers who have attempted to engage in political protest activities in public places have been deported quickly, in some cases at their own expense, usuallybefore the U.S. Embassy is aware of the situation.
Participating in unauthorized political activities or protests against Chinese policy in China may result in lengthy detentions and may impact your eligibility for future visas to visit China. Foreigners engaging in pro-Falun Gong or pro-Tibetan activities have been detained or immediately deported from China, usually at their own expense, after being questioned. Several reported they were subject to interrogations and were physically abused during detention. In addition, some alleged that personal property, including clothing, cameras, and computers, was not returned.
U.S. citizens have been detained and expelled for distributing religious literature. Chinese customs authorities have enforced strict regulations concerning the importation of religious literature, including Bibles. If you bring religious literature with you, it should be a "reasonable amount" for your personal use only. If you attempt to bring larger quantities, the literature will likely be confiscated and you may be fined, detained, or deported.
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