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Business groups criticise China for visa restrictions

17 April 2008

BEIJING – Business groups are criticising China for limiting the visas it issues to foreigners in Hong Kong, saying the new rules were severely affecting business people.

Joerg Wuttke, president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, on Thursday called the restrictions enacted ahead of August’s Olympic Games "truly annoying" and charged that the new visa rules were unclear and have never been published.

"Once again, there is no transparency," he said.

The European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong warned of negative repercussions for business and on a wider scale.

"This is already having and will increasingly have a very negative impact on our members and the conduct of their business in China and Hong Kong," the group said in a letter to Beijing’s representative in Hong Kong, Lu Xinhua.

"At a time when we in Hong Kong are looking forward to a very successful Olympic Games in Beijing and Hong Kong, we believe that these measures will have a negative effect on China’s image."

In April, China stopped issuing multiple-entry visas to foreigners travelling in and out of Hong Kong as well as short-stay visas at its border with Hong Kong until after the Olympics as security is tightened ahead of the Games.

Business people and tourists who make regular trips to mainland China from Hong Kong can now only apply for single or double entry visas.

The rules have limited the number of trips Hong Kong-based foreign executives may make to the mainland to visit their businesses there or conduct negotiations and severely impacted Hong Kong’s role as the "Gateway to China".

Travellers from around the world have used Hong Kong as a jumping-off point to enter China, but representatives of China’s foreign ministry in Hong Kong said they would no longer process visa applications from foreigners without residences or regular work in the special administrative region. Such travellers would have to apply at Chinese embassies or consulates in their home countries.

Before the new rules were enacted, the ministry approved such visas as quickly as within one day in Hong Kong. Foreigners could also apply for multiple-entry visas for up to three years to visit mainland China from Hong Kong.

[dpa / Expatica]