Mon, Jun 15, 2015 - Page 1 News List

China to lift entry permit requirement for Taiwanese

AFP, BEIJING

Beijing is to lift an entry permit requirement for Taiwanese traveling to China, state media reported yesterday, part of a wider plan to reduce barriers between the two nations.

National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Chairman Yu Zhengsheng (俞正聲) made the announcement at a forum in the southern Chinese city of Xiamen, the official Xinhua news agency reported, but did not give a date when the policy would take effect.

“We’ll consistently support exchanges among compatriots of the two sides and firmly oppose the separatist forces’ obstructive intent to the peaceful development of the relations,” Yu said, according to Xinhua, referring to Taiwanese political parties that want to declare independence.

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting “reunification” — by force if necessary — but Taiwanese currently need to apply for the permit, similar to a visa, before traveling to China.

As part of the reform, the passport-like document that was previously required would be replaced with a card allowing automatic entry, Xinhua said.

Taiwanese made more than 5 million visits to China last year, according to official statistics cited by Xinhua, an increase of about 1 million from 2008. Meanwhile, Chinese tourists made about 4 million trips to Taiwan last year, up from 280,000 in 2008, Xinhua said.

Currently, residents from 47 Chinese cities can travel to Taiwan as individuals, as opposed to members of group tours, a policy that was introduced in 2011 with just four Chinese cities.

Since he became president in 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has led a rapprochement with China, resulting in more than 20 trade deals and a tourism boom that has seen Chinese visitors flock to the nation. However, many ordinary Taiwanese feel they have reaped little benefit from the trade pacts and worry about close ties with Beijing, which led to the massive Sunflower movement protests and the occupation of the Legislative Yuan last year.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) lawmakers yesterday panned China’s policy as degrading to Taiwan.

“Turning the Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents into IC cards and canceling the visa requirement would make the permits the same as the ‘home visit permits’ held by Hong Kong residents,” DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said. “Taiwanese will now officially be treated by China like residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region — a definite downgrade.”

Chen said that Ma often brags that his policies as president — as well as Ma’s insistence on the so-called “1992 consensus” — have improved cross-strait relations, but Ma has apparently failed to improve Taiwan’s status; instead, it has been downgraded.

“If recognizing the ‘1992 consensus’ really had any meaning, then Taiwanese would be able to travel to China on their own passports, while Chinese traveling to Taiwan would do so with their own passports,” Chen said, referring to a term former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) had admitted making up in 2000, which refers to a tacit understanding between the KMT and the Chinese government that both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what “China” means.

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