China tightens ban on ‘non-essential’ overseas travel as lockdown anger rises

 China tightens ban on ‘non-essential’ overseas travel as lockdown anger rises

In a statement Thursday, the Chinese National Immigration Administration said it would tighten the review process on the issuance of travel documents such as passports, and strictly limit those seeking to leave.

The administration justified the measures by claiming that it should “reduce the risk of infection when leaving the country, and carry the virus when entering the country.” Travel is allowed only for “necessary” purposes, defined by the administration as continuing work, study, business and scientific research, as well as seeking medical care.

Those who need to travel abroad to help fight the pandemic, or bring in disaster relief resources will expedite their applications, according to the notice.

Officials did not disclose how they would enforce the new bans, or prevent travelers with valid travel documents from leaving.

The new measures represent China’s most stringent bans on foreign travel in decades, putting more strain on a population that has suffered more than two years of draconian Covid- 19 including townwide lockouts, mass testing and mandatory quarantine.

“Don’t go out unless necessary, don’t leave the country unless necessary, don’t give birth unless necessary,” read a popular comment in reaction to news on China’s Weibo -like Twitter platform.

Some think the government may restrict travel because more people are seeking to escape as fears mount over newly implemented government locks-especially in the capital Beijing, where Covid’s case rises. These fears are only exacerbated by the chaos and dysfunction that has engulfed locked cities like Shanghai.
Covid workers checked the travel information of passengers at a high-speed train station in Huai 'an, China, on May 11.

“Those who want to flee China fear that people’s rights and dignity are irrelevant in the face of full government power (amid the explosion),” a Weibo comment read.

“Shall we return to the national policy of secession in the Qing Dynasty?” another user wrote, referring to China’s last imperial dynasty whose last years in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries were marked by the country’s growing isolation from the rest of the world.

Exit is blocked

Travel abroad for ordinary Chinese was particularly restricted until the early 2000s – but it increased as household incomes rose and the government relaxed regulations. Chinese citizens made 670 million trips abroad in 2019, the last normal year of travel before the pandemic, according to the country’s Immigration Administration.

But that number declined during the pandemic, with more than 73 million inbound and outbound trips by 2021.

Even before Thursday’s announcement, travel in or out of China became even more difficult. The borders are largely still closed to foreigners, with Chinese citizens returning from abroad and those with special visas or residence permits allowed to enter. Flights are limited and expensive-and everyone who wants to enter usually faces strict quarantine of up to 21 days.
'Stop asking why': Shanghai intensifies Covid lockout despite dropped cases
China has further discouraged travel by dramatically reducing the number of travel documents issued. It only issued 7.98 million documents in 2021, less than 6% of the documents issued in 2019, according to the Immigration Administration-which also announced to stop renewing passports for “ unnecessary ”travel in February.

Thursday’s bans dealt a blow to Chinese residents who married foreign nationals. It could also prove another hurdle for students wanting to appear at university abroad-already facing disappointment this week after the United States College Board announced it would cancel Advanced Placement exams. (AP) – which has always been considered an integral part of U.S. college applications – in several locations, citing “widespread Covid bans.”

Six -week lockdown

Public frustration has continued to grow over the past few months as authorities across the country have imposed lock-in measures-sometimes in just a few cases.

At least 32 cities across China are under total or partial lockdown, affecting 220 million people, according to CNN calculations.

The most famous among them is Shanghai, the wealthy financial hub, which has been under total city lockdown since late March. Throughout April, residents detained at the home reported not being able to access food, medicine or other essential supplies.

In recent days, complaints have surfaced on social media about community workers being forced to enter people’s homes without permission and damaging their personal belongings during disinfection. A viral video shows residents arguing with police who tried to take them out of their homes; it is unclear what policy the forced eviction of residents was, or where they were sent.

People waited in long lines at a supermarket on May 12 in Beijing, China.
Fears are rising that the country’s capital will be next. Beijing authorities have urged residents to stay home, and have begun launching several new rounds of mass testing-prompting panic buying in supermarkets, with photos showing high line while residents rush to stock up on supplies in the event of a lockdown.

Beijing officials denied claims of future lockouts on Thursday and urged the public not to hide food, stating that there were sufficient supplies available. But their commitment could be of little benefit, with public trust already shattered – especially since the lockout of the entire city of Shanghai came just days after authorities rejected any such plans.

“It’s a familiar photo,” a Weibo user said under a video showing Beijing officials trying to calm the public. Another writes: “After the lessons have been learned, who dares to take the risk?”

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