China country information and facts for travelers.

CHINA

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COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The People's Republic of China has been a one- party state controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since its founding in 1949. It is one of the world's largest and fastest growing economies. Modern tourist facilities are not widely available, except in major cities.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: Valid visas are required, and those who arrive in China without a visa are usually fined at the port of entry and generally not allowed to enter China. The Chinese Government does not permit foreigners to visit some areas of China. Reconfirmation of departure reservations is essential. Travelers who have not reconfirmed have been stranded when outgoing flights are overbooked. For information about entry requirements and restricted areas, travelers may consult the Embassy of the People's Republic of China at 2300 Connecticut Avenue N.W., Washington. D.C. 20008, or call (202) 328-2500 through 2502. For more information regarding PRC visas, contact the Embassy's visa section at (202) 328-2517 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. There are also Chinese Consulates General in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: The quality of medical care in China varies. Competent, trained doctors and nurses are available in major metropolitan centers, but many do not speak English. Hospital accommodations are spartan, and medical technology is not up-to-date. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services and may not accept checks or credit cards. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide payment for medical services outside the United States.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost from $10,000 (U.S.) to $100,000 (U.S.). Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation, is strongly recommended. It may be purchased in the United States prior to travel. Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, and whether it includes a provision for medical evacuation. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor, or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

The following two private emergency medical assistance firms have representative offices in Beijing: (Disclaimer: The Department of State provides this information as a service to U.S. citizens, but cannot specifically recommend any medical assistance firm nor guarantee the quality of services of any private corporation.)

Asia Emergency Assistance Ltd. (AEA International)
Building C, BITIC Leasing Center
No. 1 North Road, Xing Fu San Cun
Chaoyang District
Beijing 100600
Tel: (86-10) 6462-9112, 6462-9100 (24 hours)
Fax (86-10)6462-9111
>From U.S.: 1-800-468-5232
24-hr number from U.S.(Seattle, Washington):
Tel: (206) 621-9911
Fax: (206) 340-6000

MEDEX Assistance Corporation
Regus Office 19, Beijing Lufthansa Center
No. 50 Liangmaqiao Road, Chaoyang District
Beijing 100016
Tel: (86-10) 6465-1264
Fax: (86-10) 6465-1240
E-mail: medexasst@aol.com
(Baltimore, Maryland)
Tel: (410) 453-6300 (24 hours)

AEA has an internationally staffed clinic in Beijing.

ADDITIONAL MEDICAL INFORMATION: The Department of State brochure, "Tips for Travelers to the People's Republic of China" contains additional information concerning medical care in China. This brochure is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad is provided in the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs' brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via our home page and autofax service.

For additional health information, travelers may call the toll-free numbers of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention international travelers hotline 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747), or may use the CDC autofax service, 1-888-232-3299, or may access the CDC home page on the http://www.cdc.gov/.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: China has a low crime rate; however, crime has increased in the past few years, principally in the major cities. Heated arguments in China sometimes attract large crowds of onlookers who, on occasion, have become abusive. Theft is the most common crime affecting visitors and occurs most frequently in crowded public areas, such as hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants and tourist and transportation sites. The loss or theft of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Police reports of the theft are required before travelers may obtain new visas from Chinese authorities. Due to Chinese procedures, it usually requires at least two working days to obtain a new passport and Chinese exit visa. Chinese authorities require that travelers have valid visas to exit China, and even to travel and register in hotels within China. Useful information on safeguarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State's pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad." It is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 or via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs.

SECURITY CONCERNS: A small number of bombings and incidents of unrest have occurred in recent years, mostly in parts of China inhabited by ethnic minorities. Terrorism has not been a widespread problem in China, however, and there have been no known incidents of terrorism nor political violence directed against American citizens.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and do not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Long delays in the judicial process are common, sometimes lasting for years. There is no bail in China, and foreigners are normally detained while their cases are being investigated. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. 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. Foreign passport holders have been executed for drug offenses, and one U.S. citizen, convicted on drug-related charges in Shanghai, received a 15-year prison sentence. In 1998, another U.S. citizen was sentenced to death, with a two-year reprieve, on a conviction of drug dealing.

CUSTOMS INFORMATION: Information concerning regulations and procedures governing items that may be brought into China is available through the Chinese Embassy and Consulates in the U.S. Students may bring into China only a limited number of items which are considered necessary for study and daily life. Some U.S. citizens residing in China have been required to pay customs duty on certain high value items when they depart China, if procedures were not followed when the items were originally brought into China. Additional information concerning Chinese Customs regulations is contained in the Department of State's brochure "Tips for Travelers to the People's Republic of China," which is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20420.

PASSPORT CONFISCATION: PRC authorities commonly confiscate passports and levy exit bans against persons involved in commercial or other disputes. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate General will make inquiries with local authorities to attempt to ensure that the U.S. citizen's rights under the U.S. - China Bilateral Consular Convention are honored. The individual usually is not placed under arrest, but is sometimes detained in a hotel or other facility, until the dispute is resolved. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate issues another passport to any U.S. citizen who applies for one under these circumstances; however, even with a new U.S. passport, Chinese authorities often block departure by refusing to provide a visa for exit purposes.

CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports or photocopies of passport data and photo pages and PRC visas with them at all times so that proof of U.S. citizenship is readily available, if they are questioned by PRC officials.

The U.S.- PRC Consular Convention of 1980 provides that detained U.S. citizens have the right to contact a U.S. consular officer, that U.S. consular officers shall be notified of the arrest or detention of a U.S. citizen within four days, and that a consular officer may visit the citizen within two days of making a formal request. Note, however, that U.S. consular officers do not always receive timely notification of the arrest of a U.S. citizen. U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should request contact with the U.S. Embassy or one of the U.S. Consulates General. As explained below, China does not recognize dual nationality. Dual nationals who enter China on Chinese passports are usually denied access to U.S. consular officials.

DUAL NATIONALITY: China does not recognize dual nationality. Some U.S. citizens, who are also Chinese nationals, have experienced difficulty entering and departing China on U.S. passports, and some U.S. passports have been seized by Chinese authorities. Dual nationals may be subject to Chinese laws which impose special obligations. In some cases, such dual nationals are required to use Chinese documentation to enter China, in which case U.S. consular access and protection is denied. (Conversely, the United States requires that all U.S. citizens enter and depart the United States on U.S. passports.) Dual nationals who enter and depart China using a U.S. passport and a valid PRC visa retain the right of U.S. consular access and protection under the U.S.- PRC Consular Convention. The ability of the U.S. Embassy or Consulates General to provide normal consular services would be extremely limited should a dual national enter China on a Chinese or other non-U.S. passport.

China does not recognize the U.S. citizenship of children born in China, one of whose parents is a PRC national. Such children are required to enter and depart China on PRC travel documents. China also does not recognize the U.S. citizenship of children born in the United States to PRC national parents who are neither lawful permanent residents nor U.S. citizens. Although Chinese consulates have frequently issued visas to such individuals in error, they are treated solely as PRC nationals by Chinese authorities when in China. Specific questions on dual nationality may be directed to the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, Department of State, Room 4811A, Washington. D.C. 20520, or to the U.S. Embassy or one of the U.S. Consulates General in China.

ADOPTION: After completing a lengthy pre-approval process, U.S. citizens wishing to adopt a child in China can expect to spend at least two weeks in China. U.S. immigrant visas for adopted children are issued at the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou. For additional information, contact the Office of Children's Issues, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Department of State, Room 4811A, Washington, D.C. 20520; telephone: (202) 736-7000.

TRAVEL TO TIBET: It is possible to make travel arrangements to Tibet from outside of China. Once in China, travelers wishing to visit Tibet must join a group, which can be arranged by almost any Chinese travel agency. The travel agency arranges for the necessary permits and collect any fees. The Chinese Government requires foreigners (including U.S. citizens) wishing to visit Tibet to apply in advance for approval from the Tourist Administration of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. More information is available through the Chinese Embassy or one of the Chinese consulates in the United States, or, while in China, at the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. Consulate General. (See Entry Requirements.) There have been some reports of robberies and assaults along remote highways near China's border with Nepal and in areas near Mt. Everest. (See safety information contained in the section Information on Crime.)

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: After extensive joint reviews with the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC), the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has concluded under its International Aviation Assessment (IASA) Program that the CAAC oversees and licenses China's air carriers in accordance with international safety oversight provisions.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at (703) 697-7288.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: In large cities in China, most roads are well-paved, traffic lights function, and drivers generally comply with basic traffic laws. However, the growing number of vehicles, many of which are driven by relatively inexperienced drivers, as well as the large numbers of pedestrians and cyclists, lead to congestion and additional risks. In any accident involving an automobile and a pedestrian or cyclist, the driver of the automobile is legally presumed to be at fault. Foreigners often complain that they are automatically considered at fault in any accident, simply because they are foreign. Drivers on inland and rural roads are less likely to comply with basic traffic safety procedures. Additionally, livestock are a common obstacle on roads outside the larger coastal cities.

DOCUMENT SEIZURES: Chinese authorities have seized documents, literature, and letters which they deem to be pornographic, political in nature, or intended for religious proselytism. Persons seeking to enter China with religious materials in a quantity deemed to be greater than that needed for personal use may be detained and fined. Magazines with photographs, including some advertisements, considered commonplace in Western countries may be regarded as sexually explicit pornography. Books, films, records, tapes, and compact disks may be seized by Chinese Customs to determine that they do not violate Chinese prohibitions. Individuals believed to be engaged in religious proselytism or in conduct Chinese officials consider immoral or inappropriate have been detained and expelled.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: U.S. citizens living in or visiting China are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy or at one of the U.S. Consulates General in China, where they may also obtain updated information on travel and security in the country. It is also possible to register from the United States via the Internet through the U.S. Embassy's home page.

The U.S. Embassy Consular Section in China is located at 2 Xiu Shui Dong Jie, Beijing - 100600, telephone (86-10) 6532-3431, 6532-3831, and after-hours, telephone (86-10) 6532-1910; fax (86-10) 6532-4153, 6532- 3178. The U.S. Embassy Internet address is http://www.usembassy- china.org.cn.

The U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu is located at Number 4, Lingshiguan Road, Section 4, Renmin Nanlu, Chengdu 610041, telephone (86-28) 558-3992, 555-3119; fax (86-28) 558-3520.

The U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou is located at Number 1 South Shamian Street, Shamian Island 200S1, Guangzhou 510133; telephone (86- 20) 8188-8911, ext 255, or (86-20) 8186-2418; after-hours, telephone (86-20) 9070-4511; fax (86-20) 8186-2341.

The U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai is located at 1469 Huaihai Zhong Lu, telephone (86-21) 6433-6880, after-hours, telephone (86-21) 6433- 3936; fax (86-21) 6433-4122, 6471-1148.

The U.S. Consulate General in Shenyang is located at No. 52, 14th Wei Road, Heping District, Shenyang 110003, telephone (86-24) 2322-1198, 2322-0368; after-hours, telephone (86-24) 9085-0801; fax (86-24) 2322- 2374.

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