Panama lifts visa limits for Chinese visitors

Central American country to send delegation to China for opening of Panamanian consulate

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 2:28pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 8:42pm

Panama’s government will send an immigration and security delegation to China, the country’s president said on Tuesday, as part of the lifting of visa restrictions for Chinese visitors.

Mainland visitors to Panama will now need an electronic visa stamped in a consulate instead of a restricted visa obtained through a lawyer to visit the country, part of measures the government hopes will promote tourism and investment.

The security and migration delegation would travel to China for the opening of the Panamanian consulate, though no date had been set, said President Juan Carlos Varela.

In June, Panama established diplomatic ties with Beijing, breaking with self-ruled Taipei in a major victory for Beijing, the second most important customer of its key shipping canal.

Panama denies chequebook diplomacy after ditching ties with Taiwan

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said the island would not bow to pressure from the mainland, referring to Beijing’s suspension of cross-strait talks and exchanges, and luring away two of its allies – Sao Tome and Principe, and Panama – to force her to accept the “1992 consensus” and its “one China” principle.

But she said the old path of confrontation was over and vowed to maintain her commitment to the cross-strait status quo in a carefully worded National Day address last week that avoided provoking Beijing ahead of its Communist Party congress this week.

Why diplomatic ties with Panama are so important to Beijing

Beijing, which considers Taiwan a wayward province subject to eventual union, by force if necessary, has insisted that Tsai – who took power from the Kuomintang to become the island’s president in May last year – accept the consensus, which it sees as the political foundation for cross-strait relations.

The consensus is an understanding reached in 1992 to allow the two sides to continue talks as long as they agree that there is only one China, though each can have its own meaning of what that stands for. Tsai’s refusal to acknowledge the consensus has been a sticking point since she took office.