Indian nationals to face tighter rules on visiting Hong Kong

Former Indian Association president says he is willing to accept new measures as way to tackle problem of nationals seeking refugee status in city

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 6:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 11:45pm

An Indian community leader in Hong Kong says he is prepared to accept new entry restrictions on nationals visiting the city in a bid to reduce the problem of Indians seeking refugee status.

Indian nationals will need to obtain prior approval from the Immigration Department from early next year before they can enter the territory.

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Former Indian Association of Hong Kong president Mohan Chugani described the new measures as “a step in the right direction”, saying it was a solution to the problem of economic migrants and would also restore the reputation of Indian nationals.

“I do not say it is the best way out, but it is the solution for the time being. Hong Kong is not equipped to handle that many refugees who abuse the system,” Chugani told the Post.

“People and the media will only keep attacking our people if the number continues to rise. That won’t do us any good.”

Chugani added he thought the Hong Kong government welcomed all visitors but had the right to formulate its own immigration policy.

Among the current backlog of 10,675 refugee applicants in the city, Indian nationals lead the pack with 19.7 per cent of all claimants.

About half entered the city illegally, with the other half being overstayers. One third were Indian visitors who were allowed to stay in Hong Kong visa-free for up to 14 days.

The new measures were unveiled on Monday after the proposal was first floated by former immigration director Eric Chan Kwok-ki in February.

Indian passport holders who intend to visit the territory must first apply online for pre-arrival registration. If they do not, they will not be allowed to visit the city visa-free.

The Security Bureau said the measures did not constitute a visa restriction.

“[It} would be one option to address this problem, but we have no such plan {visa restrictions] at this stage considering the strong economic and social ties between the two places,” the bureau stated in a paper submitted to the Legislative Council.

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Applicants will need to provide their personal particulars, travel history and itinerary in the territory.

The system will conduct a risk assessment based on the information provided and in most cases grant approval instantly.

“We will evaluate whether the applicants are genuine travellers. For example, we will see if they overstayed in Hong Kong previously,” a government source said.

Successful applicants will not be allowed to board a plane or ship to Hong Kong if they fail to show the approval slip.

“Many Indians visitors are currently deported if local immigration officers doubt their motives for visiting. The new system can solve the problem,” Chugani said.

“Real businessmen and visitors have nothing to hide and should not fear the new measures.”

The bureau did not give a clear date for when the measures would be implemented, saying only it aimed to launch the system by early 2017.

The Indian consulate in Hong Kong could not be reached for comment.