MP calls for restraint on detention of tourists

Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin and federal minister Liew Vui Keong spoke out about the detention of four women tourists from China.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah can’t risk a repeat of “overzealous enforcement” that left four Chinese tourists in detention for more than two weeks, Sabah DAP secretary Chan Foong Hin said today.

Chan, who is MP for Kota Kinabalu, said immigration laws must be respected but overzealous enforcement would only bring an adverse impact on Visit Malaysia Year 2020.

“Sabah can’t allow this to happen again,” he said. “Don’t take Chinese tourist arrivals for granted. There are too many good places to visit in other parts of the world.”

The detention of four Chinese women for 18 days has raised the alarm here about the effect on the state tourism industry.

Sabah immigration director Muhamad Sade Mohamad Amin made no explanation as to why the four women were detained for such a period of time, from Dec 18 to Dec 28.

He said the women had failed to have their passport stamped to denote entry at Kota Kinabalu airport upon their arrival from Shanghai on Dec 4. After six days visiting Tawau and Semporna, they four were detained at Tawau airport on Dec 10 during a regular passport check.

Immigration officers said they had violated the Immigration Act for failing to report to the immigration counter upon entering the country. Offenders risk a fine of not more than RM10,000 or five years jail upon conviction.

The court case was heard only on Dec 28 at the Tawau sessions court. All four pleaded guilty.

The case received the attention of Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew and de facto federal law minister Liew Vui Keong, who urged that efforts be made to ensure tourists are well informed of Malaysian immigration laws.

Christina Liew said she only came to know of the case on Dec 24, while Liew Vui Keong said he will raise the matter in the federal cabinet and proposed that the law be amended to provide bail terms for such an offence.

China’s consulate-general has complained that such incidents had happened several times.

Local newspaper Daily Express said that in December last year, four Chinese tourists including a pregnant woman ended up at the Menggatal detention centre for a similar offence.

In the latest incident, the detention had been longer as there was no judge available to hear the case due to the festive holidays, the daily said.

Tourism generated RM8.342 billion in receipts with 3.879 million arrivals in 2018. China is the state’s top source with 593,623 Chinese nationals visiting the state the same year.