144-hour visa-free policy should cover more regions in China: expert
Passengers go through the procedure of 24/144-hour International Transfer at the Terminal 3 at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 28, 2017. Photo: Xinhua
Last week, China extended its visa-free period for foreign travelers transiting through Beijing to 144 hours, and added neighboring Hebei province and the city of Tianjin to the program.
Commenting on the latest policy, Beijing Vice Mayor Cheng Hong said the policy “is expected to boost Beijing’s economic and cultural exchanges with the world and is good for the city’s image.”
The new policy applies to travelers from the 53 nations that previously enjoyed the Beijing’s 72-hour visa-free transit policy offered from 2013.
“To further improve Chinese visa’s openness and promote tourism and economy, it would be better to make the 144-hour visa-free policy cover more areas in China, in particular first-tier cities and key tourism cities,” said Miao Lv, vice Director of the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), a Beijing-based Chinese independent think tank, which has been working with Chinese government on projects related to Chinese visa policies. 
Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, or Jing-Jin-Ji, is the second region in China which allows travelers to stay up to six days in the country after they touch down the airport, before they transit to a third destination. In January 2016, Shanghai, its neighboring province Zhejiang and Jiangsu began to implement this policy.
However, the new policy would only allow travelers to stay in designated areas and once their stay exceeds 144 hours, there could be a punishment to a point which can ban him or her from using the 144-hour visa-free service forever, according to a staff with the exit-entry administration office of the Capital International Airport.
According to Miao, while the new policy can help promote tourism and attract more foreign travelers, the government can do more to simplify the application procedure and show respect to foreign travelers.
“Normally foreign travelers already provide detailed information when they enter the country, but they are still required to report to an administrative office in 24 hours. Such inconvenience in entry administration should be corrected,” Miao said.
While China sends a large amount of travelers overseas every year, the number of inbound travelers lags behind many countries in the world, which, according to Miao, has something to do with China’s strict visa policy for foreign travelers. 
“As an implicit supporter of economic growth, tourism can promote exchange of cargo, capital, population, as well as talent. The development of infrastructure, openness and tolerance of Chinese culture all maters in attracting foreign travelers, in particular those from developed countries,” she said, adding that CCG is also suggesting the government to take some of pilot zones for China’s economic reform, such as the Beijing Zhongguancun innovation zone and the Shanghai pilot Free Trade Zone, into consideration when making visa-free, landing visa, and electronic visa policies. 
According to a report by The Beijinger on the latest policy, the 53 countries include 24 Schengen Agreement countries, 15 other European countries, 6 north and south American countries, 6 Asian countries and 2 Oceania countries. Visitors who want to take advantage of the policy are required to fill out the 144-hour visa-free stay permit form upon arrival along with the arrival card. And after making purchases from designated stores in Beijing and Tianjin, tourists can apply for tax refunds at airports in either city.

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