Beijing Tightens Restrictions on Mainland Tourists Visiting Taiwan
Chinese mainland residents will no longer be permitted to travel to Taiwan outside of group tours as of Thursday, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism said Wednesday, citing current cross-strait relations.
Travelers from 47 Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have been allowed to apply for permits to visit Taiwan individually under a program that began in 2011. Once the new policy takes effect, all travelers from the mainland will only be allowed to visit Taiwan as part of tour groups.
The ministry said the decision was made “in view of current cross-strait relations,” without giving further explanation. Taiwan is currently gearing up for the election of its top public official in January, when Kaohsiung mayor and Kuomintang candidate Han Kuo-yu is set to face off against incumbent Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party in a heated contest.
Mainland tourists accounted for 28% of all visitors to Taiwan in the first half of this year, according to the Taiwan tourism bureau. The flow of visitors from the mainland has been slowing in recent years, with 2.7 million mainland residents visiting in 2018, down from a 2015 peak of 4.2 million.
The launch of the individual travel permit program in 2011 was widely seen as a sign of improving cross-strait relations, coming just three years after mainland group tours were first allowed into Taiwan in 2008 after a decades-long ban.
Relations between Beijing and Taiwan had flourished under a previous administration led by the Kuomintang’s Ma Ying-jeou, who had a friendlier stance toward Beijing. However, the 2016 election of Tsai, whose party has long been associated with the policy of Taiwan declaring formal independence from China, has brought a cooling of relations between the two sides.
Contact reporter Teng Jing Xuan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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