A senior diplomat on visa and consular affairs has dismissed a fake online report that claims China will issue a "frequent traveler passport" to grant holders visa-free trips to 141 countries.
Currently, there are three main types of passports for Chinese citizens - diplomat, service and regular passport.
The ill-founded online story, issued by an account on leading Chinese social network Weibo.com, quickly found its way through Chinese social networks earlier on Tuesday after it used a photo of a regular passport altered with Photoshop software to depict a "frequent traveler passport".
Guo Shaochun, director general of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Consular Affairs, refuted the online story at a news briefing in Beijing.
He reminded the public to get authoritative information from two sources - his department's website and its Wechat account.
The Weibo account of the department also said ahead of the briefing that the online report was a "sheer fabrication".
Observers noted that the rumor had gone viral partly because the number of visa-free countries or regions for Chinese citizens is still small and significantly lags behind their booming demand for global travel.
"Hopefully, it will spur the Foreign Ministry to work hard in the future to achieve visa exemptions with 141 countries someday," Weibo user @KM-2011 commented on the rumor.
Currently, regular passport holders in China can enjoy visa exemptions or visa upon arrival at 60 countries or regions.
Guo acknowledged the rising public demand. "We will continue to spare no effort in visa facilitation talks with other countries, as we have already made progress," he said.
Citizens from the Chinese mainland made more than 100 million visits abroad in the first three quarters of last year, and more than 30,000 Chinese companies became registered overseas, according to Guo's department.
Behind the increasing figures is China's rising strength and influence and the progress of the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as expanding international production capacity cooperation, Guo said.
Also, China's diplomatic mission - the ministry, embassies and general consulates overseas - have handled more than 100,000 consular cases in the past year, including the evacuation of Chinese citizens from South Sudan, Guo said.
New challenges for the Chinese consular staff include the rising threat of terrorism and piracy, frequent natural disasters and accidents, Guo added.