Tia Belau (March 9-15, 2009) is reporting that Palau government has recently instituted a “Chinese Tourist Visa Program for the Republic of Palau," a new visa policy in which Chinese nationals from mainland China could purchase tourist visa for $70 in order to visit Palau.The program is reported to involve two authorized agents in China who process tourists applications out of Hong Kong and Macau.
A letter by former VP Chin dated December 31, 2008 to an official in China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of North America and Oceania Affairs, Chin designated two official immigration agents in China to process touristss applicatons: Wellux (Far East) Ltd. Luxury Holiday based in Hong Kong and Zhongpa Vacation, Ltd. in Macau. In the letter, he stated, "These agents are authorized to accept and process tourists visa application on behalf of the Republic of Palau. They have the authority to coolect fees and approve or dissapprove applications...any Chinese citizens who is approved by one agent will be issued a visa upon entry into Palau."
The report also raised the question of the missing Subsection 319 that supposedly allowed for such activity to take place. "In question is the Immigration Regulations 2006 Version (Visa) Subsection 319 (Alien Entry Permit) that created the China Toursist Visa Program...a check on the aforementioned regulation turns up nothing on Subsection 319.
An inquiry...to Benito Thomas, a retired Director of Immigration regarding a signed letter dated April 25, 2008 bearing his name formally designating a private entity in Hong Kong for...implementation of the Alien Entry Permit process said that the new Subsection 319 took effect sometime last year. “I can’t recall exactly when but I do know it was last year that the Subsection 319 took effect,” said Thomas...He disclosed that he never signed the letter from the Bureau of Immigration dated April 25, 2008, “I am aware of the existence of that letter but I never signed it. The signature above my name is not my signature...I didn’t sign the letter because Subsection 319 was vague on whether Palau can formally designate a foreign entity to handle its visa matters...I didn’t sign that document. My signature looks different. Ever since I suffered a stroke, my signature is very short and nothing that looks like that in the letter,” insisted Benito.
When told that Subsection 319 is no where to be found, he said “The Subsection 319 amendment is very short and on one sheet of paper. Check with Joe Giramur for the copy,”...He also said that former AG Jeffrey Beattie drafted the Subsection 319 and he recalled that the Subsection 319 amendment to the immigration visa was announced publicly over the radio, and posted on other public places including bulletin boards at the post office and the Olbiil Era Kelulau.
The dossier cited only public announcement was issued on June 20, 2009 by Danny Higa, Senior Protocol Officer of the Ministry of State, “Regarding potential tourists and visitors entering the Republic of Palau from the People’s Republic Of China and its affiliated jurisdictions – Pursuant to the Republic of Palau’s Immigration Regulations 2006 Version (Visa) Subsection 319 (Alien Entry Permit) as amended, and effective July 01, 2008, all potential tourists and visitors from the People’s Republic of China must apply for pre-screening and be issued an Alien Entry Permit before entering the Republic of Palau...
According to an information provided by a high government official, the China Tourist Visa Program came to light when the Chinese Embassy in Pohnpei, F.S.M inquire about whether Palau has cancelled its visa waiver program.