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  • Writer's pictureBoyd Jones

Avoiding Arbitrary Detention - China 2023

Traveling to China as a businessman can present a world of opportunities. The Middle Kingdom, with its bustling cities, burgeoning middle class, and vast market potential, can offer a lucrative landscape for the ambitious entrepreneur. Yet, it's critical to navigate this territory with a thorough understanding of the potential risks and challenges that may arise, including the possibility of arbitrary detention.

Arbitrary detention refers to the unlawful detention of an individual without due process or legal justification. This practice, while not unique to China, has been noted as a particular concern for those in the country. Though it is often associated with the silencing of political dissidents and human rights activists, it's crucial to acknowledge that foreign businessmen are not exempt from this risk.

Therefore, to mitigate the risk of arbitrary detention in China, there are several proactive measures you can take:

  1. Understanding China's Current Political and Legal Climate: Prior to your journey, familiarize yourself with the contemporary political and legal situation in China. This knowledge will equip you to better comprehend the potential risks and challenges you may encounter, enabling you to prepare accordingly. This also includes understanding the nuances of China's business etiquette and cultural norms, as they can significantly impact your interactions and relationships within the country.

  2. Maintaining Political Neutrality: Keep your discussions and activities neutral and steer clear of commenting on sensitive topics such as Tibet, Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong. Remember that your primary purpose is business, and it's prudent to avoid any contact with political dissidents or human rights activists.

  3. Social Media and Online Discretion: The Great Firewall of China isn't just a catchphrase; it's a reality. China's strict internet censorship laws can monitor and control what is posted online. Be mindful of your digital footprint and avoid posting content that could be perceived as controversial or critical of the Chinese government.

  4. Data Privacy and Security: In an era where data is the new oil, it's essential to protect your sensitive information. Avoid carrying documents or electronic devices that contain sensitive data. If it's necessary to carry such information, ensure it's protected with robust encryption and secure passwords. Moreover, be cautious while using public Wi-Fi networks and consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for an added layer of security.

  5. Emergency Communication Plan: Have a well-defined plan for communication and support in case of an emergency. This should include contact information for your local embassy, a reliable contact in China, and a lawyer specializing in international business law. It's also worth considering investing in international insurance coverage that includes emergency evacuation and repatriation.

  6. Situational Awareness: Always be mindful of your surroundings and avoid areas that might be considered high-risk. If, despite your best efforts, you find yourself detained, remain calm, cooperate with the authorities, and immediately seek assistance from your embassy or consulate.

By taking these precautions, you can better equip yourself to navigate the challenges that may come your way while conducting business in China. As with any foreign territory, understanding the lay of the land is key to operating successfully. By doing so, you can focus on building fruitful business relationships and capitalize on the myriad of opportunities that China offers.

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