In case of emergencies after normal work hours, please call the Embassy's emergency number at 011-86-10-8531 4000 if you are calling from the United States or 010-8531 4000 if you are calling within China. To access ACS normal work hours and closure notices click here.
Please see our List of Medical Facilities and Doctors for doctors, dentists, and hospitals known to treat foreigners.
Arrest & Detention
If an American citizen is detained by Chinese authorities, the Embassy does all it can to assist. In conformance with the U.S.-PRC Consular Convention, Chinese authorities must report the detention of a U.S. citizen to the Embassy no later than four days from the date of arrest or detention. An Embassy officer will visit American detainees and provide a list of sources of legal advice or assistance. In cases of lengthy incarceration, we visit American prisoners at least every 30 to 60 days to ensure that American citizens receive treatment no worse than that accorded citizens of the PRC.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which, in China, differ significantly from those in the United States and do not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating China’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in China are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
On March 1, 2006, a new Public Security Law went into effect that gives police new powers relating to the commission of a wide range of offenses, including the authority to detain and deport foreigners. The list of offenses has been expanded to include certain religious activities and prostitution-related crimes.
Americans in China, who are not staying at hotels, including Americans who are staying with friends or relatives, must register with local police as soon as they arrive. Otherwise, they may be fined up to 500 RMB per day.
Americans who are questioned by police should immediately notify the U.S. Embassy or the nearest consulate. Foreigners detained for questioning may not be allowed to contact their national authorities until the questioning is concluded. Foreigners who are detained pending trial have often waited over a year for their trial to begin. Foreigners suspected of committing a crime are rarely granted bail. Criminal punishments, especially prison terms, are much more severe than in the United States. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Criminal penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect severe jail sentences and fines. Non-American foreigners have been executed for drug offenses. Several Americans currently incarcerated in China have been implicated in financial fraud schemes involving falsified bank or business documents, tax evasion schemes and assisting alien smuggling, including selling passports to provide aliens with travel documents.
In the past, protesters detained for engaging in pro-Falun Gong activities have been quickly deported from China after being questioned. Several of these protesters alleged they were physically abused during their detention. In addition, they allege that personal property, including clothing, cameras, and computers have not always been returned to them upon their deportation. Chinese authorities report that while they have deported these foreigners quickly after public demonstrations in favor of the Falun Gong, future adherents who intentionally arrive in China to protest against Chinese policy may receive longer terms of detention and possibly face prison sentences. In one instance, an American Falun Gong practitioner who was traveling in China on personal business was detained and asked to provide information on other Falun Gong sympathizers in the United States. Several Americans have been detained and expelled for passing out non-authorized Christian literature. Sentences for distributing this material may range from three to five years imprisonment, if convicted.
If an American is a victim of crime in China, he or she should contact the police in their local area. Everywhere in China, the Police Emergency Number is: 110. In such situations, Americans may also need to contact a doctor and/or a lawyer, please see our List of Medical Facilities and Doctors for doctors, dentists, and hospitals known to treat foreigners. Click here for a list of law firms (PDF 253KB) in your area. It is not necessary for Americans who are victims of crime in China to contact the Embassy.
The fastest and most efficient method to send money internationally, including to China, is via Western Union. Although slower than Western Union, the U.S. Department of State can assist relatives in the U.S. who wish to send money in an emergency. Details see below:
1) OCS Trust
An OCS Trust can be used to send money to a U.S. citizen in an emergency financial situation. When one uses this service, a Department of State trust account is established in the recipient’s name in order to forward funds overseas. There is a $30 processing fee. The person sending the funds must transfer the money to the Department of State via Western Union, bank wire, or cashier’s check. Upon receipt, the Department of State sends a telegram to the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad authorizing next workday disbursement. The recipient must contact the Embassy or Consulate to arrange receipt; funds are normally disbursed in the foreign country’s currency and not in U.S. dollars. Depending on the method used to transfer funds to the Department of State, it can take 3-10 business days to complete the transfer to the recipient overseas.
2) Western Union
In light of the time required to process an OCS Trust transaction, many prefer to work directly with Western Union to send money overseas. Western Union operates in China in partnership with the China Courier Service Corp. The money transfer information is sent through the company's international computer network. The recipient can collect the funds a few minutes after the transaction is complete. Funds can be picked up in person, or delivered by courier to the recipient at the address provided by the sender. At present, only US dollars or Chinese Renminbi Yuan can by transferred through this service. Western Union charges a 0.5% service fee. They have hundreds of locations in Beijing, please see their website for specific locations.
Similar to Western Union, MoneyGram tranfers funds electronically through its network of over 50,000 international agents. However, unlike Western Union who charges a flat fee, MoneyGram’s fee is based on the origination and destination cities, amount of money sent, and the desired speed of transaction completion. MoneyGram has 38 locations in the Beijing Consular Discrtict, including six locations in Shanghai, two in Nanjing, and one in Wuxi, Suzhou and Ningbo. Most CITIC Industrial Banks are MoneyGram Agents. Please see their website for locations.
What if no one can send me money?
In certain cases, the U.S. Embassy may be able to help a destitute American return home. However, applicants must meet strict criteria in order to qualify for a loan, and will not be permitted to leave the U.S. again until they repay the full amount of their loan. Assistance will not be provided to pay existing debts.
Note: The Embassy cannot cash checks.
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