KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Chinese nationals visiting Malaysia still have to apply for a visa although the 80 yuan (RM46.45) visa fee has been waived, due to a ruling by Beijing, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said.
“The Chinese government does not permit their nationals to travel abroad without a visa. That’s why they still have to apply for one,” he said. He was responding to criticism by Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Hamzah Rahmat that the visa fee-free move was only a “half-hearted” gesture.
Hamzah said paying for a visa was not the main issue as the amount is peanuts for most Chinese tourists who are the world’s biggest spenders. He said the hassle of having to apply and wait for a visa could be a deterrent.
“We cannot make a unilateral decision. It is not possible. “The decision must be a bilateral one,” Wan Junaidi said. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced the visa fee-free on Tuesday in the revised budget. It is a strategy to lure some 2.3 million Chinese visitors this year to boost the national economy which is experiencing a slowdown due to plunging global oil prices and a weakening ringgit.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the visa fee waiver could be implemented before the Chinese New Year. Wan Junaidi said the waiver would not complicate the police’s work in tracking Chinese Muslim militants using Malaysia as a transit point en route to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State. “We have asked China’s vice-minister of Public Security (Meng Hongwei) and he has agreed to supply us information on their nationals whom they suspect are involved in terrorism before they travel to Malaysia,” he said. The request was made during a meeting between Meng and Zahid in Putrajaya on Wednesday. “They promised to supply us the information so that there is no conflict where police are concerned,” he added. Wan Junaidi said police were aware and had been keeping tabs on suspected Chinese militants and actions have been taken against “these suspected terrorists”. “We have arrested some and deported them back,” he added.
Zahid told reporters after the meeting that more than 300 Chinese militants have used Malaysia as a transit point to join the Islamic State. He said the problem was serious because of the ties at the international level between terrorists in China and those in other Southeast Asian countries.