China bans short stay visas in pre-Olympic crackdown

April 8th, 2008 - 2:42 pm ICT by admin  

Hong Kong, April 8 (DPA) China has stopped issuing short stay visas to foreigners at its border with Hong Kong as security is tightened ahead of the Olympics, officials said Tuesday. Travel agents have been told the practice of issuing short-stay visas at the border to foreign business people and tourists had been suspended until after the Olympics.

Officials at China’s visa office in Hong Kong confirmed the suspension of the service Tuesday but gave no clear reasons for the move, in one case citing computer upgrades for the suspension.

News of the curb comes two days after it emerged China has stopped issuing multiple-entry visas until after the Olympic Games to foreigners travelling in and out of Hong Kong.

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

Before the ban, foreigners could get multiple-entry visas for up to three years to visit mainland China from Hong Kong. Multiple-entry visas are widely used by business people and traders.

The crackdown on foreigners visiting China from Hong Kong, a former British colony, comes at a time when the country is restricting access to its western regions amid protests over Tibet.

James Tien, leader of Hong Kong’s pro-business Liberal Party, Tuesday expressed concern over the restrictions on visas for foreigners, saying it would be a major problem for business people.

Tien, who is also chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, said it would also damage China’s tourism industry by shutting out foreigners who wanted to travel in and out of the country.

Tien is to hold talks with foreign chambers of commerce in the city of 6.9 million Thursday and will approach Chinese government officials to discuss the situation.

“There should not be a blanket ban on all these people,” he said.

“It will cause great inconvenience and it is not in the interests of China,”he said.

Referring to the protests on the Olympic torch procession, Tien said: “I think the Chinese officials or leadership should pay more attention to this.”

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