China Bans Citizens From 'Non-Essential' Foreign Travel
Authorities in China have imposed a de facto international travel ban, forbidding citizens from going overseas for "non-essential" reasons, as the government ramps up efforts to enforce its zero-COVID policy, Jessie Yeung reported for CNN.
Photo Insert: Shanghai Pudong International Airport
In a statement Thursday, the Chinese National Immigration Administration said it would tighten its reviewing process on issuing travel documents such as passports, and strictly limit those looking to leave.
The administration justified the measures by claiming it was necessary to "reduce the risk of infection when leaving the country, and of carrying the virus when entering the country."
Travel will only be permitted for "essential" purposes, defined by the administration as resuming work, study, business, and scientific research, as well as seeking medical care. Those who need to go abroad to help with fighting the pandemic, or transporting disaster relief resources will have their applications expedited, according to the announcement.
Officials did not reveal how they might enforce the new restrictions, or prevent would-be travelers in possession of valid travel documents from leaving.
The new measures represent China's most stringent restrictions on outbound travel in decades, placing further strain on a population that has endured more than two years of draconian COVID-19 controls including citywide lockdowns, mass testing, and mandatory quarantine.
"Don't go out unless necessary, don't leave the country unless necessary, don't be born unless necessary," read one popular comment in reaction to the news on China's Twitter-like platform Weibo.
Others speculated officials might be cracking down on travel because more people are looking to escape as fears rise over new government-enforced lockdowns -- especially in the capital Beijing, where COVID cases are rising.
These fears have only been exacerbated by the chaos and dysfunction that has engulfed locked-down cities such as Shanghai.
"Those who want to flee from China are scared that people's rights and dignity are nothing in the face of the government's absolute power (amid the outbreak)," one Weibo comment read.
"Are we going back to the national seclusion policy of the Qing Dynasty?" another user wrote, referring to China's last imperial dynasty whose final years in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were marked by the country's growing isolation from the rest of the world.