Even from Hong Kong, business trips to China remain an obstacle course

“Don’t forget to take sheets, pillows, towels, electric kettle (very important), supplies (chocolate, tea, snacks, etc.), and fresh food for the first few days”, had been advised to Paul H., a Western businessman who did not wish to be identified, installed in Hong Kong for twenty years. Very familiar with trips to China, mostly in the best international hotels in the main big cities, he hadn’t been back there for almost three years, and had been advised by a friend who was returning from there.

Because since “China has reopened”, those who go there, full of enthusiasm at the idea of ​​being able to “finally seeing their teams again”, come back a bit reeling from the obstacle courses that travel to mainland China has become. The pre-Covid-19 era of “flea jumps”, where, from Hong Kong, meetings, factory visits and evenings with customers in several cities were linked in forty-eight hours, is a distant memory. Just like Hong Kong-Shanghai round trips, which could be done during the day, or visits to Shenzhen, which a fast train has been connecting to Hong Kong in nineteen minutes since 2018…

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Nineteen minutes by train is fast, except that we now have to add to this transport time several weeks of waiting to win the lottery which gives the right to cross the border, and ten days of quarantine for non-resident visitors… Alec L., who works in a large electronics company, had registered on the online application provided for the draw for passages in Shenzhen, the border town with Hong Kong. He finally had his lucky day at the end of October. But, when he arrived at the border, he lacked the written certificate of one of his anti-Covid tests.

“We don’t know where we are going”

Back to square one. “I try my luck every day. My suitcase has been ready for two months now, because the results drop at 8 p.m. each day, and the authorization can be given for the next day”, says Alec. Going to China right now therefore requires patience, perseverance and even endurance. If access by plane does not require a lottery, tickets are very rare. And, for Beijing, in addition to the provision of the “usual” tests, it was also necessary, until the announcements of easing on Friday, November 11, self-test within seven hours of take-off. This meant, for the morning flights, spending the night at the airport. Only one pre-trip test is now required.

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