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FM: Visa policy changes to ensure safe Olympics
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A senior Chinese Foreign Ministry official on Monday defended changes to the country's visa policy, saying they were aimed at ensuring security for the Olympic Games and in line with international practice.

Security of Beijing Olympic Games was vitally important for the entire international community, said Wei Wei, director of Foreign Ministry Consular Department.

The Chinese government had always made security the top priority in preparations for the Games and that meant keeping "hostile forces" outside the national boundaries, he said.

"Western countries have even tougher visa policies than China," he added.

The new procedures for visa applications, adopted in April, were in line with international practice and appropriate for the perceived security threats, while allowing regular personnel exchanges during the Games.

"After broad research on the visa policies during previous Olympics and other large international sporting events, we found that other host countries of the Olympics and other major events adopted stricter visa policies than usual," he said.

"Although there are some changes in visa application procedures, the new policy is not as strict as might be imagined. Those who apply to come to China for justifiable reasons will be given every convenience," Wei said.

According to Foreign Ministry statistics, China issued 6.51 million visas to foreigners in 2005, 7.4 million in 2006, and 8.13 million in 2007.

(Xinhua News Agency July 1, 2008)

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