On January 14th, Global Affairs Canada advised that travellers to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) exercise a high degree of caution due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws. To be clear, there has been no recommendation against travel to destinations in the PRC or any of its territories.
That said, this issue has been widely reported in the media and we have received concerns from members. The Union has reached out to the company and is advised that corporate security is monitoring the situation on a day-by-day basis and has posted a message on yammer.
The Union has consulted with its own security experts and is advised that the PRC remains a safe destination, so long as certain precautions are taken:
- Global Affairs Canada has information and advice specific to laws and culture in China, including arrest and detention policies, how citizenship is determined and recognized, etc… We urge all members to consult this information prior to travelling to the PRC.
- Protests are illegal in China unless approved by the government: Avoid all gatherings and demonstrations.
- Any kind of activity that may be considered illegal or immoral should be avoided as it may place you at increased risk of arrest or detention. Shopping at the many markets may seem like an appealing manner in which to obtain a bargain, and is a common activity for aircrew on layover. However, realize that these merchants are for the most part “black market”, dealing in counterfeit goods, despite operating in plain sight of the authorities. With political tensions running high, it is advisable to avoid them, or at the very least purchasing their merchandise.
- Avoid photographing government buildings and personnel, as well as locations of political or commercial significance, as this could be misinterpreted by local authorities and could place you at increased risk of arrest or detention.
- Avoid all political conversation, especially topics that could be perceived as critical of local government. Be mindful that certain issues considered benign back home could be considered politically disruptive. Locals don’t often have access to the kind of political debate that exists in Canadian media, and are likely to be very supportive of Chinese leadership.
- It is widely acknowledged that the PRC routinely monitors social media networks and apps as well as Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s). While in the PRC never assume you have digital privacy. Exercise good “digital hygiene”, by restricting public access to personal social media accounts and clearing browser caches and history. You may consider logging out of your email and removing content or apps from devices which may be considered immoral or contrary/critical of local laws and government. Be aware of the sites that you visit and comments you make while online.
- Chinese nationals (see above) who have, or who’s family members have engaged in activities or posted messages online which could be seen to oppose Chinese leadership and/or it’s policies should be pay particular attention to their actions and activities while in the PRC.
As with any other destination the Union recommends the following:
- Visit the Global Affairs website regularly, or download the government’s Travel Smart app. The app has the added benefit of alerting you automatically when travel advisories are issued or amended for your “preferred” destinations.
- Make sure to read your company communications to remain aware of any potential operational changes and/or safety advisories. ePub also contains excellent general travel advice.
- Review the Union’s general layover safety and security advice (see below).
- Understand what the Canadian government can and cannot do to assist in the event of arrest or detention in a foreign country. It may be limited, especially for those who hold dual-citizenship.
- Know that aircrew do not hold any form of diplomatic status, and aren’t guaranteed any special treatment by authorities. You are always subject to local laws.
- Never assume that what’s considered acceptable back home will be tolerated in a foreign place. It’s always best to read up on local laws and customs. Discussing basic and important faux-pas with colleagues who are familiar with local culture prior to arrival may be helpful.
- Never assume that a conversation held in a non-local language (e.g. French) is private.
- Ensure to let someone from your crew know where you are when you go out, or leave a note in your room. Always follow company procedures if you expect to be away from the hotel for an extended period of time.
- If you are ever detained in a foreign place, be extremely cautious about anything you say to a lawyer assigned to you, as they may not represent what is in your best interests. Do not sign anything. Request to speak to a member from the Canadian consulate or embassy as they may not be informed automatically of your situation. They should be able to provide you with a list of trustworthy lawyers to choose from.
- In the event of social unrest or other large-scale emergencies: Avoid crowds, tourist areas or places of political significance, follow the advice and guidance of local authorities, try to remain aware of the local news while on layover. If in doubt about any local safety issues, consulting the hotel staff can be helpful.
Your union and its many resources remain at your disposal. Please contact us should you have any questions.
For detailed layover safety and security advice:
- Consult your Union 2019 Agenda Planner or send a blank email to
- Consult ePub
President, Air Canada Component of CUPE
and Your Air Canada Component of CUPE Health and Safety Committee