Going to China: Am I at Risk?

Sinosure debt lawyersEvery month or so, one of our China lawyers will get an email from someone who is worried about going to China for some reason or another. Sometimes it is because the person has a criminal record somewhere else in the world. Sometimes it is because the person had some sort of problem in China the last time they were there. Most commonly, it is because the person was with a company that owes money to someone in China or was with a China WFOE that blew out of town, leaving debt in its wake. See A China WFOE Shutdown, Baltimore Colts Style.

The below is an amalgamation of the typical emails our China attorneys keep getting, along with our by now fairly standard response.

I am the general manager of an American based company which defaulted on its debts to Chinese suppliers. I signed my name in the sale contracts which were for the most part simple one page contracts.
I have been contacted directly by suppliers as well as by Sinosure lawyers stateside.
Although I am not an owner officer director shareholder legal representative I worry my name could be in a computer system for detention if I were to go to china then try to fly home from a major airport.  I am mostly concerned about this because Sinosure has my name as do suppliers.
I should have always used the owner’s signature stamp on the contracts but unfortunately I sometimes signed my name to them. I knew using my name could be an issue if the company later defaulted I could be listed as someone to detain.
I am now being hired by a completely unrelated company and they want me to travel to China. I am very worried.  Although I may not be an officer, my name is on those contracts and I know how it can “get confusing” in China when they just want to detain a debtor whether the correct one or not.
Can you advise?
Am I at high risk for being detained when Sinosure is sending me e mails and letters?
I refer them to the company lawyers and frankly it’s been over ten months and several Sinosure lawyers have given up because the company is insolvent.
I need this new job but need your opinion on my risk. I will pay your fees to talk with me.
Thank you
And the below is our typical response.
You are at some risk of being detained, more likely by a company owed money than by the government. How great is that risk? That will depend on the company(ies) to whom the debt(s) are owed, your exact role with the companies that owe the money, the cities you will be visiting and the amount of the debt.
About all we can do is review your factual situation and all relevant documents and then give you a very general risk assessment. The problem is that there is a 90+ percent chance our assessment will say that you are at some risk and it will set forth various ways you can try to minimize that risk, but in the end, I doubt it will say you are at no risk and I doubt it will say you will almost certainly be detained if you go. In other words, it will essentially just tell you what you probably already know.
What have you seen out there?

Dan Harris

Dan Harris is internationally regarded as a leading authority on legal matters related to doing business in China and in other emerging economies in Asia. Forbes Magazine, Business Week, Fortune Magazine, BBC News, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Economist, CNBC, The New York Times, and many other major media players, have looked to him for his perspective on international law issues.