China: PRC Employment Law: Conducting Background Checks On Employees

Last Updated: 2 August 2019
Article by Peter C. Pang

Conducting a background check on a job applicant is a routine activity all over the world, although far too many employers ignore this critical step in the hiring process. The information sought typically includes academic background, employment history, and criminal record. Conducting background checks in China, however, involves special considerations relating to the sourcing of information and compliance with data privacy laws.

Researching an Applicant's Educational Qualifications

Researching an applicant's educational background is a critical component of any background check, especially in China, where applicants frequently pad their CVs with fake credentials and advanced degrees from diploma mills. Fortunately, China offers a centralized nationwide database for this purpose.

You can check an applicant's higher education credentials, whether from China or overseas, by using the China Higher Education Student Information and Career Center (CHESICC) website, authorized by the PRC Ministry of Education. If the applicant lists a degree from an institute of higher education, you should ask him to provide a confirmation certificate issued by the CHESICC. You should also perform your own research to identify diploma mills.

Researching an Applicant's Employment Background

The first step in researching an applicant's employment background is to rely on information provided by the applicant himself. Be sure to obtain the applicant's written consent before contacting a previous employer in order to avoid a possible breach of China's nebulous data privacy laws.

Since the applicant's previous employer is also bound by privacy laws, it is important that you have the applicant contact these references in advance to let them know to expect an inquiry from you. Another way of handling this situation is to obtain the applicant's written consent and present it to the applicant's previous employer before asking any questions.

Professional Qualifications

If the applicant claims to possess a professional qualification, such as a CPA certificate, you might be able to confirm this by checking the website of the relevant domestic professional association, such as the Chinese Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Digging Deeper

Checking references might not be enough for certain sensitive positions:

  • An applicant might, for example, have connections with companies that they didn't mention during the application process due to a conflict of interest with a previous employer (his own company set up to compete with his previous employer, for example).
  • The applicant may have been involved in civil or criminal litigation, either as a party or a non-party.
  • If the applicant has served in an executive position, scandals may have arisen on his watch that, although they may not directly implicate him, speak volumes about his ability to ensure legal and regulatory compliance by his subordinates.

Some of the information you will need to form a comprehensive evaluation of the applicant might be found in publicly available corporate and litigation records (in Chinese). Gathering other sorts of information may require sophisticated investigative resources to avoid violating PRC privacy laws.

Obtaining an Applicant's Criminal Record

Keep in mind that occupants of certain positions in China are required by law to have a clean criminal record. In this case, you are legally required to confirm this before you hire the applicant by obtaining a Certificate of Non-Criminal Conviction (a "CNCC certificate").

It appears that an employer may also require a CNCC certificate as a condition for hiring an applicant even for a job in which a CNCC certificate is not required. To obtain a CNCC certificate, the applicant himself must request it from the local security bureau by presenting an introduction letter from a potential employer (you in this case). You cannot obtain this document on your own.

Online Research

You might be able to find a criminal record for an applicant by searching the Internet. As long as the information has been made publicly available, your potential liability under PRC privacy laws for acting on it is minimal.

You might discover an applicant's criminal record, for example, by searching open court records, since this information is publicly available in China. Do not assume that an applicant has a clean criminal record, however, simply because you couldn't find a criminal record through online research.

Using an Agency

Some agencies advertise their ability to provide a CNNC upon request by exploiting claimed access to the criminal record databases of the Ministry of Public Security. Given the ambiguity of China's data privacy and "state secret" laws, however, utilizing one of these agencies could put you at risk for civil or even criminal liability. Don't risk it.

Dismissing a Current Employee Based on a Pre-Existing Criminal Record

Whether you can dismiss an employee, if you discover a pre-existing criminal record after you hire him, depends on the circumstances:

  • If the job is a CNCC job, not only are you permitted to terminate the employee, you must terminate him – and you could get into trouble for hiring him in the first place.
  • If the job is not a CNCC job, whether you can terminate the employee depends on whether he disclosed the conviction during the hiring process. If he did, you cannot legally terminate him for this reason alone
  • If the job is not a CNCC job and the employee failed to disclose a prior conviction, you can only terminate him for non-disclosure if you required the disclosure (and he failed to comply with this requirement) during the hiring process.

Legal Restrictions Affecting Background Checks

Strictly speaking, no single Chinese law deals specifically with the restrictions placed on background checks of prospective employees. Many legal restrictions exist, however, and these restrictions are spread throughout a large patchwork of statutes and regulations, including:

  • The Tort Liability Law, which allows an individual to file a lawsuit over "privacy" violations.
  • Article 253 of the PRC Criminal Law, which criminalizes the sale or provision of the personal information of others if "the circumstances are serious." Imprisonment of up to seven years can be imposed. This law could potentially generate criminal liability even for an employer who, for example, shares the results of a background check with his company's overseas parent company or subsidiary.
  • The Cybersecurity Law defines "personal data" as information that can identify a person either on its own or together with other information. Personal data can include a person's name, address, telephone number, date of birth, national ID card number, medical records, genetic and biometric information, bank account data, transaction records, website account and transaction information, and even personal consumption habits.

Do not assume that privacy restrictions apply only to the above-enumerated types of data, either under the Cybersecurity Law or under any other law. You should obtain written consent from a job applicant before sharing any information about him, and you should proceed with care at every stage of a background check.

*Peter Pang is the founder and Managing Partner of IPO PANG XINGPU, a premier international law firm founded in the 1990s as one of the first privately owned law firms in China.. Mr. Pang's practice revolves around helping foreign companies do business in China, and to this end he has accumulated rich experience in diverse areas of practice such as employment law, IP law, corporate governance, commercial law, foreign direct investment and M&A.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions