Mon, Apr 20, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Chinese tourist quota may rise

VISA ON ARRIVAL? Two groups of Chinese tourists were allowed to enter without valid entry permits last week at Kaohsiung, but another was turned back on Saturday

By Flora Wang, Shelley Shan, Rich Chang And Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Executive Yuan said it was considering raising the quota on Chinese tourists allowed to travel to Taiwan after 37 tourists from Shenyang, Liaoning Province, were sent back on Saturday because they did not have entry permits.

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said in Nantou on Friday that the adjustment was necessary because the number of Chinese traveling to Taiwan could hit 7,000 people per day by next month, adding that the number of tourists had exceeded 4,000 people per day over the past two days.

The Chinese-language United Evening News reported yesterday that the Executive Yuan had said no cross-strait negotiation was required to increase the quota.

Mainland Affairs Council Deputy Minister Liu Te-shun (劉德勳) told the Taipei Times yesterday that the adjustment would not require further negotiation with China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS).

He said that although the previous agreement signed by the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and ARATS had put the daily quota at 3,000 people, the agreement also mentioned that tourism officials on both sides of the Strait could adjust the quota without first engaging in discussions at the third round of cross-strait talks.

SEF Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) are expected to sign three agreements during the talks to be held in Nanjing, China, from Friday to the following Wednesday.

Liu Te-shun said that it would be necessary to raise the daily quota given the “needs and market” in Taiwan.

The National Immigration Agency (NIA) said that since January it had fined airlines or ships in 148 cases for carrying passengers to the nation who did not possess valid travel permits or visas.

A total of 323 similar cases occurred in 2007, with 403 cases last year, the agency said.

Thirty-seven Chinese tourists from Shenyang were sent back to China on Saturday for failing to secure entry permits to Taiwan.

The tour guide, who had obtained an entry permit, left with the group.

Roget Hsu (?y), Travel Agent Association (TAA) secretary general, said his association’s preliminary investigation showed that a travel agency in Shenyang had applied for entry permits on behalf of these tourists and their tour guide.

“But their applications did not arrive at the NIA until Thursday, and the tour group was scheduled to come on Saturday,” Hsu said. “None of the local travel agencies wanted to take over this group because it was too risky.”

The TAA is a private association assisting the government in reviewing visa applications for Chinese tourists. Chinese tourists first join a tour group formed in China, which is then taken over by a Taiwanese travel agency that guides them once they arrive.

Hsu said NIA officials used to work extra hours to review the applications of Chinese tourists so they could quickly obtain entry permits to Taiwan, but that was when there were not that many Chinese tourists.

However, he said the NIA’s workload had drastically increased as the average number of Chinese tourists had exceeded 3,000 per day. It was almost impossible for the NIA to finish reviewing the applications of the Shenyang group by the end of the week, Hsu said.

Hsu said that the Chinese government only approved the travel agency in Shenyang to organize tour groups to Taiwan after the second round of cross-strait talks.

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