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HK to extend visa-free visits to nationals of six 6 Mid-East countries
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Nationals from six Middle Eastern countries will have their visa-free visits to Hong Kong extended from 14 days to 30 from Feb. 4, Hong Kong's immigration officials confirmed on Tuesday.


The move had been announced by the Donald Tsang, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government, at a business luncheon in Saudi Arabia Tuesday, according to an statement from the HKSAR government.


Immigration Department of the HKSAR government said the privilege will be shared with Saudi Arabian, Bahraini, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, Omani and Qatari nationals.


Travelers from 170 countries and territories now enjoy visa- free access to Hong Kong for up to 180 days.


Addressing the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce Industry luncheon, Tsang called on Saudis to take advantage of the new regulations and visit Hong Kong, highlighting its cosmopolitan appeal.


"Our Muslim community numbers about 80,000 with a history dating back to the mid-19th century when our first Mosque was built," he said.


Tsang said he also saw considerable room to improve bilateral trade with the kingdom, especially given its dynamic expansion and Hong Kong's central position within Asia.


Outlining Hong Kong's plan to develop a market for Islamic finance, Tsang said the city can play a significant role in structuring and financing Islamic investment products to meet the needs of Mainland Chinese borrowers.


"A significant number of leading international banks in Hong Kong have already devoted considerable resources to the creation and servicing of Islamic financial products," he said, adding these products appeal to both Muslim and non-Muslim investors and issuers.


"There is evidence a large part of the demand for Islamic bonds comes from non-Muslim investors who have found the yield and structure of these products attractive. Hong Kong is a good platform to service these investors," he said.


Tsang started his visit to Riyadh Monday night and will later visit the United Arab Emirates, his last stop before returning to Hong Kong Feb. 1.


(Xinhua News Agency January 30, 2008)


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