Olympic Jitters Start Impacting HK Business

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on April 24, 2008

The furor surrounding the Olympic torch relay is causing nightmares for Carrefour and other French businesses in China. The impact is now extending to the hub for foreign business in China, Hong Kong. The city’s American Chamber of Commerce is becoming uncharacteristically blunt in its criticism of new restrictions on visas for business people going into the PRC from the former British colony.

AmCham last week emailed members asking for their input on rumors that the Chinese government had suddenly clamped down on visas in the run up to the Olympics. According to the email from AmCham president Richard Vuylsteke, people with multiple-entry visa that are about to expire can only get single-entry visas from now until sometime after the Olympics.

For people like me, that’s no big deal. Journalists typically only get single-entry visas, valid for only a few days, and aren’t eligible for anything else. (I literally have a letter J in my passport branding me as a journo, lest someone at the foreign ministry think it’s kosher to give me something that lets me stay one minute too long.) But business people who use Hong Kong as a base to travel back and forth frequently to cities across the border depend on having six-month multiple-entry visas that allow them to come and go as they please. This new requirement – plus some others that require applicants to show airplane tickets and hotel reservations - creates a lot of hassles.

AmCham is now going public with its concerns. Here’s what the organization has on its website: “In response to complaints of numerous individual members that began early last week, AmCham polled them for case studies of business people having problems getting China visas, in an effort to provide the Chinese government with specific evidence that business people in Hong Kong are facing major disruptions to their cross-border operations, and substantially increased costs of doing business, due to unannounced changes to China’s visa policy, as applied in Hong Kong. The results of the AmCham poll have been sent to the China Foreign Ministry Office in Hong Kong, in an appeal to Commissioner Lu Xinhua for clarification of exactly what is changed in the new visa policy, the bases for making the changes, who will be affected and for how long.”

Maybe this will be another one of those instances in which an overzealous part of the Chinese bureaucracy puts into place a policy that turns out to raise hackles from foreign business – and then another part of the Chinese bureaucracy intervenes to fix the problem. But with Beijing extra-sensitive these days because of the crackdown in Tibet and the controversy surrounding the Olympics, it might be a while before any officials come to the rescue.

Reader Comments

peace4all1

April 24, 2008 7:53 PM

I agree that it's unnecessary to restrict multi-entry business visa. Two-way trade is the best way to improve mutual-relationship. I hope that there will be a quick remedy for that visa problem. However after the concerted effort by Western media and Western leaders of putting pressure on Beijing recently with twisted reports and violent attacks on the Olympic Torch, why is anyone surprised that Chinese security folks are having a mental of under siege?

Andy

April 24, 2008 11:17 PM

Maybe now the western businesses realize that their rice bowl is not a place to spit on.

LaoWei in Hiding

April 25, 2008 1:41 AM

Andy - Maybe now those terrible western businesses should close up shop (and take all that evil Western Capitalist money with them) and move to India, Vietnam or some other 3rd world country. Then you can go back to the glory days of Patriotic Cabbage staked in the streets of Beijing! Or maybe the mid-level moron who made the decision after landing his position through his daddy's guanxi can wisely "reconsider" and put things back they way they were and keep all that money flowing into the country.

Jim

April 25, 2008 2:26 AM

LoL Andy. Nice analogy.

Troy

April 25, 2008 3:10 AM

I hardly think that any progressive Western business is planning on making any real margins off of mainlanders, labor or consumers. In the continuing pursuit of shareholder value, sure, but in the scheme of real money, the little bit that the 1.2B have to spend is about to evaporate in the next 12 months.

Surprise

April 25, 2008 8:11 AM

This is what we called, action and reaction. Western governments had acted,
the Chinese government just reacted. Western business shouldn't complaints.

David Jordan

April 25, 2008 4:55 PM

Chinese visa applicants to the US were made to jump throught hoops at US consulates in China. So this is nothing. At least the Chinese government is not asking for bank statements in the visa applications. Maybe it is coming!

Jim

April 28, 2008 10:16 PM

"Business people going from the mainland to Hong Kong can only get single-entry visas from now until after the Olympics"

It should be "going from Hong Kong to mainland"

Living in China

April 29, 2008 12:09 AM

Troy, Do you have any idea what you are talking about? Have you ever even done business in China, there is huge money to be made from a Western perspective! The largest single market for BMW is mainland China, and that is at prices 30-50% higher than Europe....

Steven

April 29, 2008 3:07 PM

When CIA-backed and terrorists are calling for 100 died persons for the Olympic games, It must be cautious. This is a very necessary measure in this background. Of course it will caused some inconvenience though for some people during this period.

Not only BMW, you can also name VW and the US top 3, what they could be without China market.

MM

April 30, 2008 12:35 AM

American businessmen going to China have had a much different interest than a great many Chinese visa applicants have had in coming to the USA. How do you think that China got its technology that jump-started its economy from one where millions starved to death to one where its foreign reserves have gone over a trillion dollars? Without buying, stealing, and spying it doesn't happen. And then after the Chinese have done all that, they copy the retail goods and even the brand names and sell them to one another all in good humor about the density of people who think China is a miracle of culture. At least the USA has been able to export pollution to them, so that is something.

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