RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – China has announced that it will impose strict restrictions on “non-essential” foreign travel by its citizens in an effort to curb the worst outbreak of coronavirus the country has seen in the past two years.
Immigration officials said the restrictions are designed to prevent people from crossing the border and include a stricter approval process for passports and other travel documents and a crackdown on illegal border crossings.
A meeting of the National Immigration Administration on Tuesday noted that the situation in China is at a “significant and urgent point” and that the city of Beijing is the “most important of the important.”
A statement on the agency’s website said the meeting was convened to relay the decisions of the Politburo Standing Committee meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping last Thursday (12), at which the leadership reaffirmed China’s zero covid policy, which “will stand the test of time.”
Chinese health authorities have repeatedly pointed to the origin of the outbreaks in the country, in some cases blaming letters and packages from abroad – a theory that has been met with considerable skepticism internationally.
China’s immigration authorities have already restricted the approval of travel documents for their citizens since the pandemic began, and Chinese citizens have complained that they cannot renew their passports.
In the first half of 2021, China issued only 335,000 passports, mainly for study abroad, business travel, and employment, 2% of the total for the same period in 2019, the NIA said last year.
A Guangzhou resident surnamed Xu said he tried to renew his passport in 2020 to see his son, who is studying in the United States but was turned away. He was told he would not be allowed to travel abroad unless he was studying abroad, doing business, or had a letter of invitation.
“I can’t understand that, even if it’s to prevent outbreaks,” he said.
He doesn’t expect his son to come home for the summer this year because of strict restrictions.
Despite the restrictions, the demand for travel continues unabated. On the popular forum Xiaohongshu, users listed creative ways to obtain a passport, including traveling abroad for a chartered financial analyst exam or hiring agents to vouch for a job or school opportunities.
One post said it is becoming the “new normal” that it is difficult to get a passport, adding, “The more material you can prepare and the sooner you get it, the better. From now on, it will only get stricter.”
In March, the Ministry of Public Security announced stricter rules for approving entry and exit permits and a crackdown on illegal activity.
While the capital has resorted to drastic measures to stop infections in the city early, the financial center of Shanghai has been under lockdown for more than a month. At least 15 Chinese provinces have also reported local infections in recent days.