harassed at the airport
Colombo to urge Hong Kong to ease travel restrictions
By Lashica Abeywickrama
A government-led delegation prepares for talks with Hong Kong immigration
authorities this week aimed at relaxing travel formalities for Sri
Lankans, particularly businessmen and leisure travelers, who have
been harassed at the airport of the former British colony.
to Hong Kong was as smooth as flying to Singapore where one gets
a visa on arrival until August last year when Chinese authorities
now administering the island state imposed visa restrictions. These
visas are given in Colombo by the Chinese Embassy.
includes visas even for passengers transiting in Hong Kong. Yet
even though one gets an approved visa from the Chinese embassy,
Sri Lankans including many businessmen have been subject to long
interviews and questions by Hong Kong immigration officials to ascertain
the reason for their visit. One of the country’s top garment
industrialists said he was kept for three hours at the airport even
though his contact made special arrangements to greet him.
Colombo businessman was questioned for hours even for personal details
such as credit cards, etc. “We had a legitimate visa to prove
our eligibility in touring Hong Kong, but we had to go through a
lot of difficulties in entering the country,” he said.
of the reasons for the stringent checks on Sri Lankans arriving
in Hong Kong could be due to a large number of Sri Lankans overstaying
their visas or arriving illegally. A travel industry analyst said
a lot of Sri Lankans are reluctant to travel to Hong Kong due to
the cumbersome process resulting in a decrease in the number of
travellers to that country. This is also of concern to Cathy Pacific,
that country’s national airline which is believed to have
helped in arranging and organising the visit of the delegation to
Passengers are also reluctant to transit in Hong Kong and now prefer
Singapore or Malaysia for an onward destination.
Sri Lankan delegation, flying to Hong Kong on February 10, will
be led by Rohan Perera, Legal Advisor to the Foreign Ministry and
will include representatives of the travel trade and JAAF (Joint
Apparel Association Forum) whose members have also been affected
by the visa process. The mission is as a result of a recent visit
to Hong Kong by Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
a separate development, Sri Lankan businessmen to China are also
facing similar restrictions. One businessman planning a business
visit to China said several requests for visas have been turned
down and applicants asked to furnish more documents including an
invitation from a business partner there. “It was never this
tough to visit China before. I wonder what has happened to create
this situation,” he said after his visa request was rejected
on January 27.