China Retaliates – Travel Visa Suspension For Business, Tourism, Medical & Even Transit Against South Korea & Japan

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Jan 10 2023
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Beijing has made good on its promise to retaliate against countries that discriminate travellers from China. South Korea and Japan have become the first casualties after the Chinese Embassy in both countries suspended the visa issuance for visits, business, tourism, medical care, transit and personal matters effective Tuesday (Jan 10, 2023).


Last week, Seoul announced it would stop issuing tourist visas for travellers from China – effective Jan 2 till the end of the month. Beijing condemned the measures, calling it “unacceptable, discriminatory and politically motivated”. After warning of countermeasures, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang called his counterpart Park Jin to express his concerns before slapping the latest visa suspension.


China says the retaliatory visas suspension will remain in place until “discriminatory” entry restrictions against China are lifted. Beijing has demanded that its citizens be treated the same as those of other countries. South Korea is one of about a dozen countries that have followed the U.S. policy requiring negative tests for travellers coming from China.

Chinese Travellers - Covid-19 Test at Incheon Airport

South Korean Foreign Ministry so far has not said how the country would respond to China’s measures. At Seoul’s Incheon International airport – the only South Korean airport allowing flights from China in an attempt to restrict Chinese visitors – arrivals are met by military personnel. Soldiers wearing blue protective clothing then escorted them to the PCR testing centre located at Terminal 1.


On top of suspending short-term visa applications from its consulates in China effective January 2, South Korea requires people traveling from China to take a PCR test within 24 hours of arrival and remain in isolation until receiving negative results. However, from January 5, travelers from China must also present a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of departure or a rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours.


A Chinese national who was waiting for her friend arriving from China complained that it is frustrating to have to wait at the Incheon airport for more than 6 hours on Monday (Jan 9). Her friend was deeply inconvenienced by the suspension of visas for Chinese nationals. Likewise, a Beijing-based South Korean employee of a South Korean company who landed at the airport also expressed dissatisfaction over the sudden quarantine.

South Korea Test Covid-19 On Chinese Travellers

In Tokyo, it has been confirmed that all visa applications for Japanese who wish to visit China – except those for humanitarian purposes – have been suspended. But unlike South Korea, Beijing did not offer Tokyo any reason or duration of the suspension. Chinese Foreign Ministry simply refused to confirm or deny that China has suspended visa applications from Japan.


Japan has decided to include travellers flying directly from Macau – in addition to from mainland China – when applying rules on entry from China, which require showing proof of a negative Covid test pre-departure. The latest retaliation from Beijing is expected to affect Japanese business operations in China, with workers unable to travel from Japan.


South Korea and Japan were the two largest sources of visitors to the world’s second-largest economy, but it appears China is betting its countermeasures will hurt them more. In 2018, South Korean visitors made about 4.2 million trips to the country, followed by 2.7 million made by Japanese travellers. But Chinese tourists accounted 8.3 million to Japan, and 4.8 million to South Korea in the same year.

China Suspend Travel Visa To Japan and South Korea - Airport

South African Mansoor Mohamed, who lives in China, agreed that the new rules on Chinese travellers have been unfair. He said – “It is relatively easy and cheap to do a Covid test in China, so it will not affect my travel planning. However, I know that many patriotic Chinese colleagues and friends will avoid those countries for now because the practice of only testing passengers arriving from China is discriminatory.”


When asked about the similar requirement from the Chinese authorities to test foreign travellers before entering China for the last 3 years, Mansoor said it is different because everyone who arrived in China – including Chinese nationals – would be subjected to the same rules. But in the case of the U.S. and its allies, only Chinese people were targeted.


According to Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, Chinese travellers are “very angry” at South Korea – and “even angrier” at Japan – over the unfair travel rules that they believe are targeting at mainland Chinese. As a result, Chinese travellers are planning to visit countries like Singapore and Thailand because both countries are welcoming them.

Thailand Ministers Welcome Chinese Tourists With Flowers

At Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, three Cabinet ministers happily welcomed Chinese tourists with flowers and gifts as they arrived on Monday (Jan 9) after China scrapped its travel restrictions. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and the ministers of transport and tourism were among those applauding 269 passengers on Xiamen Airlines Flight MF833 from Xiamen.


The travellers received garlands and gift bags and were greeted with a banner saying “China and Thailand are one family, Amazing Thailand always warmly welcomes our Chinese family”. On the same day, Thailand reversed its policy, which was made over the weekend, that required visitors to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination. The government now said it would be too inconvenient to ask visitors to show proof.


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