China has opened the first visa application service center in Lahore to facilitate applicants wishing to visit the country.

Yao Jing, the Chinese Ambassador to Islamabad, inaugurated the center. Others who attended the ceremony included the Chinese Lahore Consul General Long Dingbin, Deputy Consul General Peng Zhengwu and officials from the Punjab government.

Speaking to a reporter, official Zhengwu said that Lahore was a hub of activity within Punjab, and was an important cit for Sino-Pakistani relations.

The visa center in Lahore will handle ordinary visa applications to China, and also to the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao. However, the Lahore office will only be collecting documents and forwarding processing requests. The Chinese embassy in Islamabad will still have the final say in accepting or rejecting visa applications.

The Chinese “embassy will not operate the visa center in Lahore directly. It has outsourced it to a private company,” Zhengwu added.

Approximately 4,000 applications are processed by China’s embassy in Islamabad per month. Although one of Pakistan's biggest partners, Chinese visas are notoriously difficult to obtain. Obtaining visas for non-business related trips is, for instance, almost unheard of.

The Chinese government also began a bus service between Kashgar in Xinjiang and Lahore in 2018. The step to open the visa office in Lahore only emphasizes the significance Lahore holds for the Chinese.