SAR lagging in visa-free access

SEVENTEEN of the 52 countries or territories that grant mainlanders visa-free entry or visa-on-arrival have not extended the same courtesy to Hong Kong, the Legislative Council (立法會) was told.

In addition, 37 countries or regions allowed visa-free entry to Hong Kong have not offered reciprocal privileges to SAR passport holders, Secretary for Security (保安局局長) Lai Tung-kwok (黎棟國) said in a written reply to questions from lawmaker Yiu Si-wing (姚思榮).

Countries favouring mainlanders over Hongkongers include Cambodia (柬埔寨), Iran (伊朗), Vietnam (越南) and Burma (緬甸), while those who insist on visas for the SAR include the United States (美國) and Australia (澳洲).

Lai said the granting of visa-free access is a matter for individual countries or territories.

There is no unified international standard on determining travel convenience for different passport holders. He said 170 countries or territories now receive visa-free access to Hong Kong, while SAR passport holders may travel to 152 countries without a visa.

Lai said the government will continue to convince more countries to grant visa-free access to Hongkongers, including those that have not signed reciprocal agreements.

Yiu said the government is not pushing the issue as only 25 countries or regions have granted visa-free access to the SAR in the past 10 years, or fewer than three a year.

The working progress is slow, he said, adding the government should be pressuring 37 places granted visa-free access to Hong Kong to reciprocate. “Hong Kong is a part of China. The government should also try to get visa-free access from those places which acknowledge China,” Yiu said.

(This article is published on The Student Standard on 12 January 2016)

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