HONG KONG (AFP) — China has imposed further curbs on visitors, just weeks after it stopped issuing multiple-entry visas, Hong Kong travel agents said Friday, sparking concern among the business community.
"You now need a copy of your travel ticket both in and out of the country and a hotel voucher before they accept a visa application. Without that they will reject it," said Daryl Bending, a travel consultant with Concorde Travel.
"I think it will deter a lot of people from travelling to China. They will just think it is too hard."
Another agent said visitors from 33 countries -- including India, the Philippines and Indonesia -- were no longer allowed to apply for China visas in Hong Kong and would have to apply at their local Chinese embassies.
"It is becoming more and more serious, it is really out of control," said the travel agent, who did not want to be named.
She said that tourist and business visas were also now coming back later and later, leaving travellers waiting around for hours to find out whether their applications had been accepted.
A statement on the website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong said that there had been a "recent drastic rise" in the number of applicants.
"To spare applicants of the unnecessary trouble, for non-resident of Hong Kong, please apply for the Chinese visa at the Chinese embassy or consulate-general in his or her home country or resident country," it said.
It did not mention the list of about 30 countries the agent referred to and insisted multiple-entry visas were available, although it added officials would "consider the real need of the applicant" when granting one.
Christopher Hammerbeck, head of the British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, said the move had serious consequences for potential investment.
"It means that business travellers into Hong Kong who find someone they want to do business with are not able to go over the border and see their factory," he told AFP.
"Long term this is going to make people think perhaps they should be looking elsewhere, maybe India or Vietnam."
A Hong Kong government spokeswoman said: "The Hong Kong government has reflected the views/concerns of the Hong Kong business community to the relevant mainland authorities."
Travel agents in several Asian countries previously said China had stopped issuing multiple-entry visas several weeks ago and that they had been told the service would not be resumed until after the Beijing Olympics, which take place in August.
Hong Kong residents will still be able to get a short-term visa from travel agents to the border city of Shenzhen without hotel and travel tickets, Concorde Travel's Bending said.
But a visa granted at the border, popular among those taking day trips to Shenzhen for shopping or business, was no longer available, he added.
Hong Kong has maintained separate legal and visa systems since it was returned to China by colonial power Britain in 1997.
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