With less than six weeks before the Games, the Chinese visa situation Shanghaiist reported on earlier this month is not getting any better. Many foreign residents living here for years are now being forced to leave China, and some of them are reconsidering “how much of their operations they keep in China,” Andrew Work, executive director of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, said. The Wall Street Journal follows a story similar to that of Canadian Daniel Yeung in the Globe and Mail. John T. McAlister, the American co-founder of a scientific-research company, leaves China today after making it his home for the past eight years. Through a series of complications, McAlister had been forced to live on a renewed F (temporary business) visa for the past six months. When it was time to switch to a Z visa, many of the registered companies he appealed to to sponsor him had trouble providing him with working papers. McAlister was told he was too old to qualify for proper work permits (he is 71), but wasn’t told what the official cutoff age was. “The problem about all of this is the suddenness and enforcement of rules that may have existed always but are hard to accommodate in a short period of time,” McAllister told WSJ.
China’s heightened security measures are causing many others to worry, too. Judging from businesses across the country this summer, visa restrictions are in danger of preventing the economic windfall that many anticipated the Olympics would bring. Hotels and restaurants in many of China’s cities have reported the worst business in years. “Business has never been so bad,” Ma Yi, the manager of a restaurant in Yiwu, told the LA Times on Monday. Information from the Beijing Tourist Bureau obtained by the New York Times on Tuesday stated that only 44 percent of the rooms in four star hotels and 77 percent of five-star hotel rooms are booked. Other forms of housing are suffering too: Peking Duck’s Richard says that in the past few weeks, the prices of Beijing apartments on Craigslist have been experiencing “something akin to a meltdown.” The Associated Press wonders if it’s not only China’s security restrictions and limited Olympic tickets that are keeping potential tourists from visiting: many foreigners could be put off because the government seems more concerned with keeping them out than welcoming them to the Games.
The Summer Games were predicted to bring 500,000 visitors and an extra $4.5 billion in revenue to Beijing, United Press International attests. But in recent weeks, the New York Times’ David Barboza notes, Beijing appears to be “less concerned about hosting a global party and more concerned with making sure no one spoils it.” As James Fallows notes, the problem goes deeper. In its long-awaited moment of glory, China seems to be sabotaging itself. Fallows cites the crackdown on visa-issuance and foreign journalists, combined with the increased presence of the “Hand of the State” in Beijing, as measures that are undermining China’s goal of glory and world prestige. Perhaps “no one in a position to make these decisions understands how they’ll look to foreign eyes,” Fallows hypothesizes. Or, he continues, maybe those in power have decided to sacrifice good PR for airtight control. Regardless of their intent, how much are Beijing’s Olympic security measures costing China?
Photo by Theo W L Jones.