PUTRAJAYA - The visa requirement for tourists from China is for security purposes, said Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
He said the decision to only waive the visa fee was made after careful study.
"A visa is still needed to be issued for the sake of national security," he told newsmen after receiving a courtesy call from Chinese Vice-Minister for Public Security Meng Hongwei at his office here yesterday.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, in his special address on the economy and the Government's financial position on Tuesday, announced the visa fee waiver for tourists, including those from China, as part of a strategy to strengthen economic resilience by intensifying the tourism industry.
"We will officially inform our embassy and consulate-general in China.
"I hope we will be able to implement the move before Chinese New Year," said Dr Ahmad Zahid.
Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said tourists could obtain the visas from the Malaysian embassy in Beijing and the consulate-general offices in Guangzhou, Kunming and Shanghai.
He added that it was free if they obtained it directly from the embassy or the consulate-general offices.
"If they ask their travel agents to do it for them, I think there would be a service charge.
"I hope they are clear about this," he said.
Asked why the Government had only waived the visa fee when it was reported earlier that it was keen to do away with the visa requirement, Nazri said many factors were taken into consideration when the final decision was made.
"We were looking into a possibility, which need not necessarily be translated into a decision."
Nazri said no other ASEAN member country had waived the visa requirement for tourists from China, contrary to news reports that Indonesia and Thailand had done so.
The Indonesian immigration department in a press statement on Jan 5 said that although there had been proposals to expand its "Free Visa for Short Visits" facility to five more countries, including China, there was still no decision on the matter.
The Thai government held a campaign between August and October last year. During the campaign, holders of China and Taiwan passports were exempted from paying the visa fee while on holiday.