Portuguese Ambassador considers questioning central authorities on visa-free scheme to mainland

Portuguese in Beijing, Paulo Jorge Pereira Nascimento

The Portuguese Ambassador in Beijing, Paulo Jorge Pereira Nascimento, is considering asking central government authorities why Portugal was excluded from the extension of the visa-free scheme for the mainland.

In an interview in Beijing with Portuguese news agency Lusa, Nascimento expressed surprise at Portugal’s exclusion from the new group of countries to whose nationals China is granting free visa access via a special scheme.

Initially, the scheme, launched for a one year trial period in November last year, and which took effect Dec. 1, included only six countries (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia) for trips related to business, tourism, family visitation or transit for no longer than 15 days.

On March 7 this year, the same authorities announced the scheme would be extended from March 14 to Nov. 30, 2024, to passport holders from Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

The Portuguese Ambassador noted that Portugal is among a restricted number of countries from Western Europe to which China did not grant the same treatment, noting the decision is “difficult to understand.”

Due mostly to Macau’s historical roots, Portugal maintains close relations with China with a significant number of Macau residents also holding Portuguese passports.

The same diplomat told the Times in November last year that the criteria for the inclusion of countries in the visa-free scheme could only explained by the Chinese central government authorities as they were “sovereign criteria that have not been made public.”

Ambassador Nascimento added that “it is not possible for us [Portuguese diplomatic envoys in China], nor legitimate, to speculate on the reasons why some countries were chosen and not others.”

In the Lusa interview, Nascimento reaffirmed China’s sovereign right to decide which countries are included adding that he does not believe the Chinese authorities intended to purposely exclude Portuguese nationals to “send any message” to Portuguese authorities.

According to data from the latest Census survey, around 9,000 people of Portuguese nationality reside in Macau, of which about 2,200 were born in Portugal.

Portugal inclusion should happen ësooní

Responding to an inquiry from the same news agency, the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the People’s Republic of China, without specifying the matter, has said it is open to negotiate and cooperate with Portugal in their bilateral relations.

More hopeful is the executive president of “PorCham Greater China,” a group of entrepreneurs dedicated to linking Chinese and Portuguese business interests in South China.

Acting formally as a Chamber of Commerce and a Portuguese companies’ incubator in China, based in Guangzhou, the head of the organization, Pereira, told Lusa he believes it is just a matter of time until Portugal is also included in the free-visa scheme.

He said that as far as he knows, there are just some administrative procedures to be concluded for this to become a reality.

Pereira also noted that “if it becomes a reality, it [visa-free] would be a very positive measure for all the Portuguese companies and entrepreneurs.”

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