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Beijing mulls visa-free stay for foreign visitors

By Katie Hunt, for CNN
May 28, 2012 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Beijing considers a 3-day visa waiver for international tourists
  • The Chinese capital hopes the waiver would boost inbound tourism
  • Similar schemes already available in Shanghai and the holiday island of Hainan
  • Move comes as Beijing cracks down on foreigners working illegally

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Foreign visitors to the Chinese capital may soon no longer need to apply for a visa if their stay is for less than three days.

Beijing authorities are considering waiving visa requirements to attract more international tourists and as a signal the city is open to the world, the official China Daily newspaper reported Monday.

Similar waivers are available in Shanghai, where visitors can stay for 48 hours, and the holiday island of Hainan, where tour groups can stay for three weeks without a visa.

The move comes after Beijing launched a crackdown on foreigners working in the city illegally amid a heated debate about the behavior of foreigners living in China.

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Jiang Yiyi, director of the China Tourism Academy's international tourism development institute told the paper that the move would boost inbound tourism and there was little chance the visa waiver would trigger a rise in illegal residents.

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Earlier this month, the Beijing Public Security Bureau launched a 100-day campaign to "clean out" non- Chinese living or working in the city illegally. Until the end of August, all foreigners are expected to carry on them a valid passport, visa and residence permit.

In little more than a decade, China has gone from hardship posting, to a place where many young people flock to in pursuit of job opportunities as the country's economy has boomed.

However, work visas are difficult to obtain and many foreigners have relied on tourist visas -- leaving the country every few months to get it renewed.

Chinese authorities had seemed relatively relaxed about the practice but it has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after online video footage of a foreign man sexually assaulting a Chinese woman triggered widespread outrage.

Beijing police later revealed that the foreigner in the video was a Briton on a tourist visa.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Friday that there was no "anti-foreigner trend" in China and that China would protect the legitimate rights and interests of foreigners coming to China.

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