Travel to China – Ban on International Travel to China by the Chinese Government
Effective January first, the Chinese government announced that all non-diplomatic travel to China would be banned. This included, all traveling to Hong Kong and all travel to Macau. This means that for anyone planning to travel to either of these countries, they will need to obtain a visa – a process that could take months. In addition to this, all goods coming into or going from China will be subjected to an exit ban as well.
This new measure is being implemented in line with China’s efforts to curb pollution, as well as the potential danger posed by unscreened people travelling abroad. There have been rumors that China’s plan is part of an international campaign to counterbalance the US lead in global health care. As this measure goes into effect, travelers planning to visit Hong Kong or Macau during January will need to apply for a visa ahead of time, in order to avoid detection and immediate deportation. The timeframe is in effect until at least the end of the Chinese New Year.
In addition to this, there are other types of travel restrictions in force for Chinese citizens. While most foreigners are prohibited from travelling to China between the hours of five am and midnight, there are exceptions. Foreign nationals who hold work permits can enter China between the hours of eight am and four pm. Students in college dormitories can apply for the student visa once their school has started. Businessmen can apply for the special business passports once their companies have begun operating in China.
As the measures implemented by the Chinese state security apparatus go into effect, citizens who travel to China are advised to be extra cautious when using public transportation. For one, the stamped vehicles are no longer available, and drivers are instructed not to let non-Chinese passengers use the entrance to the city. In addition to this, there have been reports of random searches by Chinese state security agents for drugs, illegal drugs and counterfeit currency. While citizens are not officially required to give in their passports when entering the country, they are reminded to do so whenever they plan to leave the airport or other facilities.
There are other measures enforced by the Chinese authorities as well. The penalties incurred by foreigners attempting to illegally enter China, including those who try to overstay or take advantage of Chinese diplomatic personnel, can amount to heavy fines. Entry restrictions are also enforced for businessmen who wish to take loans from Chinese banks. Additionally, tourists who overstay their welcome in the country are banned from leaving China for three years. All citizens are strictly instructed to report to the local Chinese consulate any instance of unemployment or any unusual activities within their area of work. Failure to comply with these measures can result in heavy fines or even incarceration.
The Chinese government’s policy towards foreigners is not exactly an open one. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign affairs, for example, issued a statement on August 4 that all citizens are required to respect the rights of others and prevent “espionage, theft, or corruption.” This was immediately followed by a visit by the Chinese ambassador to South Korea, where he was condemned by South Korean officials for violating their national interest. The Chinese foreign ministry released a strongly worded statement on its website describing the ambassador’s meeting with the South Korean ambassador as “unfruitful” and a show of “hostility.”
Although the travel industry has not yet seen a large-scale restriction, Chinese authorities may impose travel restrictions during times of high political sensitivity. There have been no public reports of such restrictions. Instead, there are rumors from travelers who mention them but are denied by the Chinese government. On October 12, state media carried a report that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had abruptly canceled a trip to India, citing “human resources related reasons.” The ministry did not release the reasons for the cancellation and it is not clear whether it was related to India’s stance on the Dalai Lama or another issue.
Travel to China remains possible despite the current Chinese State Secrets Act (SSAA) and other pressure tactics by the Chinese government. However, travelers should be aware of the possibility that they will be traveling over the Chinese border and could be subjected to excessive surveillance by the Chinese State Security Department (SSC). Traveling within China is extremely popular and thousands of people visit China each year. There are still low to medium-level state-run censorship in China, although these controls are becoming more strict.