China’s bribery law amendment resembles a version of the FCPA

In February 2011, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) legislature, among 49 amendments, passed Amendment No. 8 to Article 164, which criminalizes the payment of bribes to non-PRC government officials and to international public organizations. Legal experts say that that the passing of this amendment is the PRC’s effort to comply with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption to which the PRC is a signatory. Although no interpretive guidance has been issued, the amendment resembles an early version of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Before the amendment was passed, the PRC prohibited bribery of PRC officials and provided for civil and criminal liability for making commercial bribes to private parties for the purpose of obtaining illegitimate benefits, but had no specific law that criminalized the payment of bribes to non-PRC officials. Effective May 1, 2011, the amendment adds the following clause to Article 164 of the PRC Criminal Law:

“Whoever, for the purpose of seeking illegitimate commercial benefit, gives property to any foreign public official or official of an international public organization, shall be punished in accordance with the provisions of (Article 164.)”

Article 164 states that “if the payer is an individual, depending on the value of the bribes, he/she is subject to imprisonment for up to 10 years. If the payer is an entity, criminal penalties will be imposed against the violating entity and the supervisor chiefly responsible; other directly responsible personnel also may face imprisonment of up to 10 years. Penalties may be reduced or waived if the violating individual or entity discloses the crime before being charged.”

According to legal experts, the PRC Criminal Law applies to all PRC citizens (wherever located); all natural persons in the PRC regardless of nationality; and all companies, enterprises, and institutions organized under PRC law. Thus, in addition to PRC domestic companies, any joint venture or other business entity formed under PRC law, including ones involving non-PRC companies, may be criminally liable under the amendment. Non-PRC companies with representative offices in the PRC may also be subject to the provisions of the amendment.