Sunday, June 1, 2008

Visa wars

I recently had to go through the rigmarole of getting a China visa and was none too happy with the experience. Post us and the French trying to snuff out the Olympic torch Beijing has suddenly changed the laws for getting a visa into China. Multiple entries are out, and on applying you now need to show flight tickets and hotel vouchers – and it costs close to US$200 for a double entry, three-month visa, which is the best Beijing is offering at least till after the Olympics.
The effects of this new regulation have already been seen. The giant Canton Fair in Guangzhou, where buyers from around the world flock to buy anything and everything from coffee machines to engines, reported a huge drop in international visitors this year.
Now, I have to admit I was super hacked off with this visa change, as I’ll probably shell out at least $400 in China visas before the Olympics are over. However, on reflection can I really blame the apparatchiks in China? Not really. There are a hell of a lot of floating westerners in China, taking odd jobs, never paying taxes and generally not contributing to the improvement of society. This measure serves to clear them out --- as well as, obviously, minimizing potential demonstrator embarrassment during the all-important August showcase that is the Olympics.
But far more importantly, let’s be honest, if a Chinese fella walks into a British embassy or consulate and asked for a six month multiple entry visa to the UK he’d be laughed out the door. Tit for tat.

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