09/22/2008, 00.00
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No more visa restrictions for applicants in Hong Kong

People who wanted to travel to the mainland have had to put up with restrictions since April on security reasons. These restrictions will be lifted on 16 October. Business people will breathe a collective sign of relief because the constraints were a serious obstacle to their activities.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Visa restrictions imposed by the People’s Republic of China on foreigners in Hong Kong during the Beijing Olympics last month will be lifted from 16 October. The long-awaited move will be a relief to the city's foreign business community and to tourists, used to easy access to the mainland.

In April restrictions imposed by PRC authorities meant that visa applicants had to get a visa in their home country and produce advance hotel reservations and return-flight bookings.

The popular ‘144-hour’ visa for groups of at least three tourists visiting Guangdong from Hong Kong by land will be reintroduced, said Paul Leung Yiu-lam, a deputy chairman of the Association of Travel Agents.

Short-visit visas to Shenzhen had also been suspended; they allowed visitors to stay in mainland China just for a few hours.

The measure, which had ostensibly been introduced for security reasons and to prevent the entry of potential troublemakers, was criticised a lot by foreign business people, if for no other reason than the fact that it was introduced almost without notice.

Hong Kong is home to many multinationals whose officials often must go to China on short notice, almost impossible under the rules in place in the last few months.

Nationals from 33 countries including India, Malaysia and the Philippines were never the less able to obtain visas in Hong Kong if they were residents.

Similarly, during the Olympic Games the authorities granted visa-free access to overseas visitors accredited by the International Olympic Committee for a month before and after the Olympic Games. These visitors included journalists, athletes and support staff.

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