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China’s visa snub is ‘not linked to Portugal’s Huawei ban’

Portugal’s former foreign minister has addressed speculation that the country’s decision to ban Huawei has provoked retaliation from Beijing.

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Former Portuguese foreign minister António Martins Da Cruz has expressed surprise over China’s exclusion of Portuguese passport holders from a visa-waiver scheme, TDM reports.

Under the scheme, nationals of 11 European countries are permitted to enter China without visas, but the Portuguese and British are notable omissions from the group.

There has been speculation that Beijing’s exclusion of Portugal may have been motivated by Lisbon’s de facto banning of 5G equipment made by Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. However, Da Cruz, who was Portugal’s foreign minister from 2002 to 2003, told TDM on the sidelines of a talk at the International Institute of Macau that he did not believe this to be the case. 

“I can tell you that Huawei is a massive company,” said Da Cruz, who is now the head of an investment agency representing the Oeiras Valley region of Portugal. “It’s so massive that we are going to visit Shenzhen this Friday. We have an agreement with the Bao’an district in Shenzhen, and then we’re going to visit Huawei.” 

[See more: Nascimento: It’s ‘difficult to understand’ why Portuguese still need visas for China]

Bernardo Mendia, the secretary general of the Portugal-China Chamber of Commerce was of the same view, telling Hoje Macau that the visa-waiver scheme and exit of Huawei 5G from Portugal “are very different issues,” and that “The area of visa-free travel has nothing to do with economic policies.” 

Jose Sales Marques, the former president of the Macao Institute for European Studies, also shot down suggestions that Huawei was linked to Portugal’s absence in the visa-waiver scheme, pointing out that Portugal “has had more flexible…[and] friendly positions [with China] than some countries that had the visa waiver.” 

Da Cruz is not the only figure to be baffled by Beijing’s decision. Portugal’s ambassador to Beijing, Paulo Jorge Pereira Nascimento, also expressed similar sentiments this week. 

Portuguese citizens who wish to travel to Mainland China are currently required to apply for a visa, although they may stay in any 23 designated Chinese cities for short periods of time under China’s 72-hour and 144-hour visa-free transit policy.

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