|'Issuance of business visas not to be halted'|
Visa agencies said on Sunday that they have received no information that corroborates reports suggesting that China is suspending its issuance of business visas.
Meanwhile, the Beijing municipal government said it was about to introduce a policy that would allow certain foreign citizens who are traveling through Beijing on their way to places outside China to stay in the city for up to 72 hours without having to apply for an entry permit.
Over the weekend, Internet users raised concerns about reports that said authorities will cease issuing "F" visas starting on Tuesday. Those sorts of visas are meant for foreigners who are invited to the country to conduct business or attend trade fairs or exhibitions. They usually expire after six months.
Visa agents in several cities said they had received no official notice of such a policy change.
"We're processing visa applications for foreigners as usual," said an agent in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, who declined to provide her full name. "I've not heard anything about a suspension."
In Beijing, another agent, who also declined to furnish his name, said it's unlikely the issuance of "F" visas would be suspended and said he has heard nothing either from the authorities or industry insiders to suggest they would.
"There's no reason for an abrupt suspension," he said. "Doing that would lead to nothing but chaos and confusion."
A spokesman for the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau's exit-entry administration could not be reached on Sunday.
The rumors have given rise to concerns among foreign businesspeople in China.
Robin Tsukada, a Japanese student who has received a job offer from a trust company in Beijing, said abruptly suspending the issuance of business visas would defy reason.
"It would only bring lots of inconveniences and confusion to those who are and will be working in China," he said.
As for allowing foreign travelers to come through Beijing on their way to places outside China, no further information has come out about that proposal and it's not clear what sorts of people it would affect if adopted.
"The proposed policy, once applied, will mark a giant step forward and further boost the city's tourism industry by attracting more tourists and generating more profits," said Lu Yong, director of the Beijing Tourism Development Committee.
He said the policy will be introduced in the "near future", declining to elaborate.
Tourism generates roughly $1,000 per capita among Beijing residents, and visitors from overseas are the source of two-thirds of that money, said Ding Xiangyang, vice-mayor of Beijing.
Estimates hold that the number of tourists coming to Beijing will double from 5 million to 10 million by 2015, he said.
China has relatively tight visa restrictions and few visa exemption agreements with other countries, according to Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy.
Yet it is gradually loosening its visa policies. Shanghai and South China's Hainan province, for instance, have adopted visa waiver policies in attempts at attracting foreign tourists.