Wednesday, 16th April, 2003


  200 Chinese tourists get special nod to enter Malaysia
  New Strait Times
  JOHOR BARU, Tues. -   More than 200 Chinese holidaymakers from Chengdu in Szechuan, China, were today given special approvals to enter Malaysia via the Second Link despite the visa freeze for tourists from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) affected countries.

The group, in 10 tour coaches, who had left China about two weeks ago before Malaysia's decision to stop issuing visas to visitors from China, were "stranded" in Singapore for several days.

The arrival here was facilitated by their local travel agent who had made a special application to the Immigration Department to allow them into the country on a "case-by-case" basis.

The group was earlier screened by a team of medical staff stationed at the checkpoint. The group's tour leader, Li Hwa Min, 33, said they were only told of the "green light" to enter Malaysia yesterday.

" We had actually changed our flights and were preparing to return home. But we are now delighted to be able to visit Malaysia," she said.

Li said the visa-freeze on Chinese tourists was unnecessary as only a small number of Chinese nationals were down with SARS.

He also pointed out that the outbreak was also confined to certain specific provinces in China.

"Only a small fraction of the Chinese population has been infected with SARS,. China is a big country, it is unfair to issue a blanket freeze on all citizens visiting Malaysia," she added.

One of the tourists, businessman Jin Chang Su 36, echoed the same sentiment, saying that Malaysia could lose out on the Chinese tourist trade if it did not lift the ban.

"A lot of Chinese are travelling abroad for holidays now. If Malaysia closes its doors, they will go to other places," he said.