Mainland visitors are acquiring business visas from Taobao shops that grant them frequent access to Macau and Hong Kong, the Times has learned. Visitors can be listed as owners of ready-made companies and obtain these travel permits for tens of thousands of patacas.
As the Macau SAR continues to break its record of tourist arrivals and the registration of new companies in the nearby cities of Zhuhai and Shenzhen continues to rise, some Taobao stores are seeing their business grow too.
One reason for their growth is a newly-discovered phenomenon whereby mainland residents can purchase a Business Visit Endorsement (Shangwu) from a non-governmental authority.
Shangwu is applicable to any mainland resident aged above 18 years who wish to make business trips to either Macau or Hong Kong as individuals. The business visa is good for both single and multiple journeys to Macau or Hong Kong, with its validity from three months up to one year, and each stay lasting no more than seven days.
Normally, to obtain a Shangwu via legal means, mainland residents must apply to China’s public security bureau for authorization. Mainland-registered companies can send staff members to the SARs, sole traders who conduct business activities in the SARs can apply, and mainland residents who operate specific vehicles between mainland and the SARs are also entitled to apply.
Despite the mainland government having outlined a list of criteria for mainland residents to apply for the Shangwu endorsement, ‘travel agencies’ have discovered a back door for those who wish to visit Macau and Hong Kong, repeatedly and without the need for multiple tourist visas, for a period of one year or more.
The Times contacted the Public Security Police Force, which oversees immigration, to enquire if the authority can confirm whether all business visitors to Macau are actually carrying out business activities during their stay. No response was received by press time.
Searching “Hong Kong and Macau Shangwu Endorsement” on Taobao, the Times found at least five stores selling the business visa service. On average, these Taobao shops charge RMB15,000 (MOP18,000) for one Shangwu endorsement to either Macau or Hong Kong. A joint package for both SARs is priced at RMB27,000 (MOP32,500).
However, a mainland resident applying legally for a Shangwu endorsement would pay as little as RMB15 (MOP18) and RMB80 (MOP96) for a single-entry and a multiple-entry endorsement respectively, if the person applied as an individual at the Guangdong police authority.
Searching on Taobao, the Times investigated one “four-hearts” shop called “Shenzhen Yi Xing Dian”, offering “one-year multiple entry Hong Kong and Macau Shangwu endorsement” for just RMB10. A Taobao shop with a “hearts” score usually means that the vendor is has recently joined and has not established a reputation on the platform.
No description of the service is provided in the products description section. Instead, in the description space, a WeChat number is listed, accompanied by the sentence “[contact] for further details.” This shop is located in Shenzhen.
A Zhuhai-based shop named “li7688198149” also sells the service. Under its product description, this shop lists phrases such as “successful application guaranteed”, “full refund if no success”, “professional guarantee 365 days of validity”, “welcome cooperation from the same industry” and “full agent maintenance service.”
According to the shop, “customers only need to provide an ID card to apply immediately.” After providing a copy of their ID card, customers are asked to wait for an approval, followed by completing the necessary photo and finger print registration at the immigration bureau offices in Guangdong. Then they would only need to wait for their Shangwu endorsement to be issued.
However, according to official information obtained on the Guangdong immigration authority’s website, a Shangwu endorsement applicant must submit documents such as business operation registration proof, or social security proof, or a Guangdong-issued driving permit, depending on which category the applicant belongs to.
Though the Shangwu endorsement is charged differently for Hong Kong and Macau, service procedures and requirements for both Shangwu endorsements are the same.
Another shop, named Shenzhen Yu An Lv You Zhuan Ying Dian charges RMB27,000 for processing the endorsements for Hong Kong and Macau together.
A fourth store charges RMB18,000 for each individual endorsement, while a fifth, called “eyoo888” – which recorded 131 sales in the last 30 days – offers five sets to its customers, who can choose either to use their passports or travel cards when applying for the visa. The passport option reportedly only works for the Hong Kong Shangwu endorsement application.
This shop, based in Hong Kong, also reminds customers that there will be “no refunds to [customers] providing fake documents and police will be informed.”
“I already got the visa,” one buyer writes in a review of “eyoo888”. “I am a professional Daigou [and] I go to Hong Kong at least five times a week.” A Daigou, usually an overseas Chinese, is a person who buys products and services for other people and ships them to other places, mostly mainland China.
“My Hukou [place of residence] is Shenzhen. Every time I have to apply for [a tourist visa] it is not just a little bit troublesome,” another customer writes, “now, I don’t need my travel card.”
A third customer complained about their failed application through this shop. “It was not issued. The money was not fully refunded, and the [shop] did not care about the company [the shop helped to] register,” the buyer writes.
“I [applied for a] one-year multiple entry. Honestly, I was not confident in the beginning. However, the shop’s staff took me to Gongbei to enter Macau, took me to casinos and then to the outer harbor ferry terminal to Hong Kong. It was really considerate,” another buyer writes.
During the course of the investigation, the Times contacted several shops, one of which explained that when a customer is not qualified for the Shangwu endorsement, the shop will use the customer’s identity to register a new company in Guangdong province, or the shop will use the customer’s identity to change the owner of a pre-existing registered company.
Once the customer is identified as the owner of a mainland company, then the customer is eligible to apply for the visa. Staff reporter