Leaving your country may be more difficult for Chinese people. They are only allowed to leave the country for a special reason, Chinese immigration authorities have made clear. The reason given was to fight the epidemic. SRF’s China correspondent, Martin Aldrovandi, explains what this means for people in China.
Northeast Asia Reporter, SRF
Martin Aldrovandi has been SRF Radio’s Northeast Asia correspondent since 2016, based in Shanghai. Previously, he had worked for several years as a freelance journalist from the Chinese-speaking world.
SRF News: Are Chinese in general no longer allowed to leave their country?
Martin Aldrovandi: Basically, I wouldn’t say. They are allowed to leave the country if they have a good reason, for example if they want to study abroad and already have a place at a university, or if they have a job. They should be able to prove it. It is clear that vacations or visits abroad are not valid as a reason. Additionally, new passports have not been issued for non-essential travel for quite some time now. In the name of fighting Covid, this measure will be strictly implemented, according to the official announcement. In the meantime, there has already been a reaction from the immigration authorities. There is criticism that foreign media have misquoted it.
There are also reports of passports being cut.
How are the reactions?
The topic is widely discussed on social media, but also among people who want to travel abroad; Even among those who do not have a valid passport. They are desperate and don’t know how to get out of the country. There are also unconfirmed reports that even passports have been confiscated or cut.
That would be harsh. What do people say about their experiences when leaving and entering the country?
The return trip was difficult for a long time. There are almost no more flights to China, and those that fill up quickly are usually very expensive. Perhaps the authorities are thinking that if people are not allowed to leave the country at all, this problem will also decrease.
It has been difficult, if not impossible, for China’s ethnic minorities, such as the Tibetans, to travel abroad for years.
These are worrying developments. However, we must not forget that it has been difficult, if not impossible, for China’s ethnic minorities, such as Tibetans and Uyghurs, to travel abroad at all for years. Many of them do not have a passport. Now it also affects many Chinese, that is, the ethnic group that makes up the majority here.
There are fears that the closure in the country will continue after the epidemic or even increase?
Yes, it has long been the case that China has been reflecting strongly at home. On the other hand, it is difficult for most foreigners to travel to China. On the other hand, people also try to focus more on their country economically. Censorship has also increased for a while. Many Chinese universities have also announced that they no longer wish to participate in the world rankings. These are all indications that people are increasingly moving away from other countries.
Correspondence from the authorities in China is often brief. Sometimes it is not clear what exactly they mean in practice. What does this mean for the population?
People are used to reading between the lines. I’ve seen him on lockdown in Shanghai. It was initially said that these were just malicious rumors, and everything was officially rejected. Then a few days later there was a shutdown. It was initially said that it would last five days. But for me, it lasted seven weeks, for others it lasted two months already. So it should come as no surprise if people are wary of official announcements.
Interviewed by Isabel Maesen.
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