The State Department has advised American travelers not to travel to China. Why? Well, the Chinese government issued a Level 3: Foreign Bankruptcy warns on travel to the eastern part of the country where the former city of Wuhan lies. You may remember that Wuhan was the original epicentre of the deadly pandemic. A nationwide travel restriction from China was imposed on January 1, 2021, with some reported cases already in the United States. The State department’s revised Travel Warning for China advises travelers to avoid all travel to China unless there are urgent or available exceptions.
Why is the State department issuing a travel advisory about the new Chinese travel ban? The reason has to do with the outbreak of the deadly SARS-Severe Respiratory Disease which was earlier confined to Hong Kong and Macau. Since it spread to other counties in China and travelled to other countries as well, the Chinese authorities have become highly alarmed at the number of cases it is experiencing. A Level 3 Travel Ban has been imposed in response to this global pandemic.
The revised Chinese criteria for deciding on a no entry ban include the travelers’ current state of health and the risk of contracting a disease while visiting China. There are three levels of risk, namely: present disease, the possibility of future infection and likelihood of existing infection. The present condition refers to being ill but not necessarily getting sick while in China. Probability of infection and likelihood of getting ill depend on how long one is outside the country and on the types of diseases they are exposed to.
The Chinese government has introduced a number of measures to deal with the outbreak of SARS and one of them is the implementation of a no entry ban. It has also imposed an exit-entry ban on all travelers from the mainland and other countries that have applied for Chinese diplomatic or commercial visas. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a notice to all Chinese foreign nationals visiting the mainland from February 2, informing them that they can no longer travel to Hong Kong or Macau. It specifically stated that those who were travelling to Hong Kong or Macau would not be allowed to enter China from these two cities.
The notice released by the MOFA specified that those who are currently travelling to Hong Kong or Macau will not be permitted to leave the country even if they obtain a new visa from the Chinese consulate or get exit visas from the local authorities. This was done in an effort to tighten up the screening procedure for the Hong Kong and Macau Passport and that the procedure for approving visas will be tightened up in the future, so that Hong Kong and Macau will become a more secure destination for foreign nationals. While there was no explanation as to why the policy concerning exit visas was introduced, Foreign Minister Wang Yi did announce that the government would review the previous decision regarding the entry ban for a year and determine whether it is effective or not. He indicated that a review will be conducted by July and that a report will be out soon.
There were no changes to the existing policy regarding the issuance of visas-on-arrival for Chinese nationals currently planning to travel to Hong Kong or Macau. The documentations that accompany the visa confirm that the holder is a person of a certain age who is registered as a permanent resident of China and has the right of entry. The documents do not mention that the holder is also a citizen of the People’s Republic of China or that he is a foreign national. The documentations also state that the holder is not eligible for any immigration status within the country or with the US. These indications do not mean that current holders of Green Card or other immigration status will not be allowed to enter the country, but they are indicating that future decisions regarding the issuing of entry visas will be influenced by the above changes.
The documentations that accompany the visa do not mention the fact that there are numerous restrictions on the movement of Chinese nationals outside the Chinese territory. In practice, there are exit bans and travel restrictions that apply to Chinese citizens travelling to foreign countries. Chinese nationals travelling outside China need to have a visa in order to enter the country, and these can only be obtained after the submission of the relevant forms. Foreign travellers are obliged to pay the relevant exit fees when departing China and must also obtain a visa on arrival.
The measures implemented by the Chinese authorities on travel to China in the recent period indicate that the authorities are very anxious to avoid the situation whereby there is a threat of the collapse of the economy at a moment when it is in a transitional phase. There are therefore important considerations in the formulation of the new travel policy, including the introduction of some effective February 2nd visa policies. The introduction of a travel advisory notice on the country’s foreign visitor’s website indicates that the central government is serious about discouraging the irregular entry of Chinese nationals into the country. Although the notice does not mention any new restrictive measures, it is clear that the authorities intend to implement whatever measures are necessary to prevent the illegal entry of Chinese nationals.