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Legal Guidelines for Foreigners—Olympic Traps for Foreigners?

June 5, 2008


Human Rights in China (HRIC) is today issuing an English translation of the Chinese government's reference guide for foreign visitors to the Beijing Olympics, which open on August 8.

The "Legal Guidelines for Foreigners Entering, Exiting and Staying in China during the Olympics," released June 2, consist of 57 questions and answers divided into eight categories including transportation, accommodations, medical treatment, intellectual property protection of the Olympics logo, and "special notes." The English translation prepared by HRIC is appended to this Press Advisory.

If foreigners do run into trouble, the recent crackdown on lawyers and the lack of a functioning rule of law in China should raise additional concerns.

In addition to sending a warning to foreigners about prohibited behavior, including sleeping in parks, carrying weapons, prostitution, illegal gatherings and parades, and bringing into China materials that may harm Chinese society, the Legal Guidelines prohibit entry into the country of those who are mentally ill, who might engage in terrorist activities, and others "who are believed to potentially engage in other activities that may harm the national security and interests."

The Legal Guidelines also prohibit carrying out of China documents or other materials that are classified as "state secrets." The state secrets laws and regulations, however, are extremely broad and provide for retroactive classification, such that everything can potentially be classified as a state secret.

By linking specific illegal activities with vague prohibitions invoking national security, state secrets, criticism of the country, and mass gatherings, these Legal Guidelines can be traps for foreigners. If foreigners do run into trouble, the recent crackdown on lawyers and the lack of a functioning rule of law in China should raise additional concerns. Finally, the spirit of the Legal Guidelines is in tension with official commitments of openness to welcoming the international community to the Olympic Games.

Attachment: English translation of "Legal Guidelines for Foreigners Entering, Exiting and Staying in China during the Olympics" [PDF, 90K]

For more information about China's state secrets system, see:

For more information about the Olympic Games, see: