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China bans Middle East visitors

By David Rennie in Beijing (Filed: 18/10/2001)

CHINA has sparked anger across the Middle East after it put people from 20 countries and areas across the region, including Israel, on a secret security blacklist ahead of this week's Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit (APEC) in Shanghai.

Middle Eastern and Israeli citizens have found themselves banned from Chinese airlines and denied visas since the September 11 attacks, and they have been barred from Shanghai hotels during the APEC meeting.

China is proud of its reputation as a haven from international terrorism and is determined that nothing will go wrong during the summit, which is due to be attended by world leaders including President Bush and Vladimir Putin.

The existence of a blacklist has been denied but Middle Eastern embassies have been swamped with complaints from tourists and businessmen refused entry, forced to leave early or stranded at Chinese borders.

Shortly after September 11, Air China cancelled all flights to the Middle East and Pakistan, amid security fears. Israel is particularly annoyed to find itself on China's blacklist alongside such nations as Iran and Libya.

Staff at the Grand Hyatt hotel in the city, at the top of China's highest skyscraper, said: "People from Middle Eastern countries cannot stay during APEC, but others like the British are OK."

-- Martin Thompson (, October 17, 2001

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