China excludes Portugal from visa free policy

Portugal has become one of the few countries in Western Europe whose nationals do not benefit from visa exemptions to enter China, after Beijing extended the measure to another six nations.

The Chinese Government has extended its visa-free policy for stays of up to 15 days to six more European countries – Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg –, after having initially adopted the measure for Germany, Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands, at the end of last year.

This has placed Portugal among the few countries in Western Europe whose nationals do not benefit from visa exemptions to enter the country.

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Speaking to Lusa agency, the Portuguese ambassador in Beijing, Paulo Nascimento, said he “does not understand” the criteria that led the Chinese authorities to exclude Portugal.

The diplomat recalled that China has the right to decide its visa policy autonomously, but admitted that he will request a specific consultation on this decision from the country’s authorities.

“I don’t believe there is negative discrimination here, in the sense of saying that China is doing this to signal something to Portugal, I don’t think that is the case,” he said. “But I can’t understand the criteria,” he said.

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Questioned by Lusa, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs argued that China “has always been open to expanding people-to-people exchanges with foreign countries” and that it is willing to reinforce communication with Lisbon to “increase the ease of bilateral people-to-people exchanges”.

In a written response, the ministry did not provide further details or an explanation for that decision.

The president of the PorCham business group, João Pedro Pereira, told Lusa that he believes that the visa exemption policy will include Portugal in the near future. “The information we have is that the procedural processing of this issue will also include Portugal”, said the leader of the group based in southern China, adding that “if it is verified, the inclusion will be a very positive measure for companies and entrepreneurs Portuguese”.

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