Visitors stranded as China convenience visa policy abruptly ends Prudence Lui, Hong Kong, August 15, 2016 VISITORS from Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia who attempted to enter China from Hong Kong using a 144-hour convenience visa were rejected by Chinese immigration officers since earlier this month.
No advance notice or reason was given for the action. Agents interviewed speculate that security is being stepped up to eliminate the threat of terrorism ahead of the G20 Leaders Summit to be held in Hangzhou from September 4-5.
The Gongbei Port of entry. The city of Zhuhai in Guangdong is a major border crossing between Macau and China
“I understand a handful of group visitors were rejected last weekend without any advance notice,” said Holiday World Tours’ managing director Paul Leung. His Hong Kong-based agency sends several hundred group visitors from South-east Asia across the border every week.
“The visa issue definitely affects our business. Now, I have to inform our clients to apply for a China visa and this means additional cost to them. So far, Guangdong authorities have told the Travel Industry Council that the suspension is due to system upgrades, but there is no sign of when the service will be reinstated. Rumours are that it is a security concern, but nobody can verify.”
Operators in Macau are also facing the same obstacle. Estoril Tours Travel’s director of sales Johnny Choi, said: “As reported in the newspapers, visitors from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand have been rejected and this is obviously related to the G20. We have about 1,000 guests from South-east Asia travelling to China with this convenience visa so the impact to our operations (is huge).
“We earn less but there is nothing we can do about government policy. For those who can’t proceed to China, they either extend their stay in Macau or travel to Hong Kong at additional cost as their group fare tickets are fixed with dates.”
Choi added that the visa service will resume on September 15, according to hearsay.
Olivia Au, general manager of Century Holiday International Travel Service Shenzhen, said the company had groups rejected at Gongbei in Zhuhai last weekend so all travel arrangements in China had to be cancelled. It even had to bear extra accommodation costs when putting the groups up in Macau.
She said: “An urgent meeting was called up (on August 11) by the authorities but there is no explicit answer to explain why and which countries are affected. However, we were told the situation will be back to normal after September 15.
“As it takes time to apply for visas, I reckon large operators like us may lose 2,000 pax on average during this period. We recommend South-east Asian clients apply for Chinese visa before departure because nobody can guarantee (entry). Frankly, this is not uncommon as our government had in the past ramped up national security when staging iconic international events.”
Launched in November 2000, the 144-hour Convenient Visa enables foreign nationals in Hong Kong to visit Guangdong for a maximum of 144 hours (six days) via entry points in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Zhaoqing, Huizhou and Shantou.
Visitors must join a tour organised by a registered travel agent comprising a minimum of two persons and a maximum of 40 persons.
Source : TTG ASIA