Chinese visa issuance suspended in Japan and South Korea

Chinese visa issuance suspended in Japan and South Korea

In its first reprisal against the flurry of Covid-19 entrance restrictions imposed by governments against Chinese travelers in recent weeks, Beijing has suspended Chinese visa issuance for visitors from Japan and South Korea.

In the COVID-19 testing station at Incheon International Airport, quarantine officials are seen preparing for a PCR test for travelers arriving from China. Kim Jae-Hwan–SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

The Chinese embassy in Seoul stated on Tuesday that it would no longer provide short-term visas to South Korean travelers, following Beijing’s threat to impose tougher entrance conditions on Chinese visitors in response to the outbreak of diseases in the country.

In a note posted to WeChat, the embassy stated it would begin reissuing visas after South Korea eliminated its “discriminatory entry restrictions against China”.

According to the Japan Association of Travel Agents, China also began limiting traffic from Japan on Tuesday, stating that the Chinese visa center had stopped processing visa applications for Japanese travelers except for those entering for humanitarian reasons. The visa center did not respond to requests for comment.

Beijing has reacted by accusing governments of “political manipulation” in imposing entry requirements. Wang Wenbin, a foreign ministry spokesperson, reiterated China’s threat to “take reciprocal measures” on Monday.

Throughout the pandemic, China has maintained the most stringent entry requirements for international travelers among major economies, requiring hotel quarantines of up to three weeks. The quarantine rules were lifted by Beijing this month, but arrivals still require a negative PCR test before flying, in accordance with some of the restrictions imposed on Chinese travelers.

Nonetheless, some countries have launched a charm offensive to entice Chinese tourists to return to their shores following nearly three years of closed borders and disrupted travel.

On Monday, a group of Thai cabinet ministers welcomed the first group of Chinese tourists to Bangkok with flowers and gift bags. Thailand is heavily reliant on tourism revenue, and Chinese visitors accounted for roughly one-third of all visitors prior to the pandemic.

Thailand announced a requirement for proof of vaccination last week before canceling it on Monday when it was set to go into effect.