Eight years ago, China suspended several overland border crossings into neighboring countries. As of this week, thirteen of those once-popular waypoints have reopened in efforts to increase trade and boost international tourism, People's Daily is reporting.
Tourist traffic to Southeast Asia through Yunnan was once a booming business for several small border towns. The issuance of one-day tourist visas led to hundreds of thousands of mainland tourists a year queuing up to visit other countries. All of this traffic contributed tens of millions of yuan to local economies. It all fell apart, according to People's Daily, when concerns over high stakes gaming came into play:
Initiated in the early 1990s, cross-border travel was harmed by concerns over gambling in the border areas. The [Chinese] government cracked down on cross-border gambling activities in 2004 and officially closed the [border crossing] business on Nov 2, 2005.
The lifting of travel restrictions was approved by China's Ministry of Public Security (MPS) on December 16. It allows for Chinese citizens and foreign guests to apply for visas valid for between two and eight days, dependent upon destination. Although specifics were not spelled out in the People's Daily article, it did mention visas will be available at the "exit and entry authorities in five border prefectures and cities" referenced below.
Gambling may have played a large roll in the suspension of cross-border travel, but concerns over the rising influence of organized crime and drug-running most likely kept the prohibitions in place. Despite the closure of many international entry points in 2005, tourists and workers from Yunnan have intermittently run into serious trouble when venturing across borders.
Dozens of Chinese students were held for ransom in Myanmar in 2009 after being lured across the border with promises of high-paying jobs. That situation led the Chinese Foreign Ministry to issue an uncommon edict warning its citizens not to visit Myanmar.
Strained relations between China and its neighbors reached perhaps their most troubled point in 2011 when 13 Chinese sailors were murdered by a Burmese drug syndicate on the Mekong River. The killers were eventually apprehended, extradited to China and sentenced, largely due to cooperation between Chinese, Burmese, Lao and Thai law enforcement agencies.
Such international cooperation, bolstered by the establishment of four-country joint patrols of the Mekong, have calmed former tensions. Yunnan is also enjoying its best year ever in terms of trade with Southeast Asia. The lifting of travel restrictions may be an attempt to take further advantage of an already lucrative situation. To allay any lingering fears Beijing may have over gambling, tour agencies assisting travelers can now face the loss of their operating licenses if tourists in their care enter foreign casinos and gamble
Below is a list of all 13 ports of entry and exit in Yunnan followed by the arrival country and city. Destinations are followed by the maximum length of stay noted in parentheses. Unless otherwise noted, all travel is overland. Tourists are advised to apply for short-term visas at least 24 hours in advance of their scheduled departure date.
• Dehong, Ruili — Myanmar, Mandalay (six days)
• Dehong, Ruili (Wanding) — Myanmar, Lashio (three days)
• Honghe, Hekou — Vietnam, Sapa (two days)
• Wenshan, Malipo — Vietnam, Hà Giang (two days)
• Xishuangbanna Gasa Airport (flight) — Luang Prabang (four days, ground return)
• Xishuangbanna, Jinghong (by boat) — Laos, Luang Prabang (four days, ground return)
• Xishuangbanna, Jinghong (by boat) — Laos, Luang Prabang (four days, air return)
• Xishuangbanna, Mohan (overland) — Laos, Luang Prabang (four days, air return)
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