Hong Kong, the special administrative region of China has withdrawn its previous visa-free facility for Indians. The announcement was made by the Hong Kong Immigration Department on its official website.
According to the Immigration department’s statement, all Indian tourists will have to complete a pre-arrival registration in order to gain permission to enter the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).
• The pre- arrival registration for Indian Nationals will be implemented from 23 January 2017. Its online service has already been opened.
• The registration will not be required for Indians in direct transit by air and those who will not be leaving the airport transit area.
• This new rule is a setback for millions of Indians who travel to the region for trade, business and leisure purposes.
Earlier, Indians with valid passport were permitted to enter Hong Kong for a period of 14 days without having a visa. The facility has been reportedly revoked due to the rise in the number Indian asylum seekers.
According to some Indian officials, Hong Kong is just using the excuse of asylum seekers to deny visa-free entry to Indians who are among the largest spenders, contributing heavily to the local economy. There are also reports that suggest that the move has been brought on due to increasing pressure from China.
Ma Chi-ming, Assistant Director of Hong Kong’s Immigration, who is in charge of visas and policies, stated that this newly introduced system will undergo a review after its launch.
Among the current 10,335 refugee applications in the region, about 80 percent are from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam and except for Indians, all others require visas to enter the country. The number of asylum seekers is especially high in Hong Kong due to its liberal procedures.
While this announcement is definitely disheartening, there is some relief for Indian tourists, as Thailand on the other hand, has halved the visa on arrival fees for Indian tourists.