Mon, Sep 21, 2015 - Page 1 News List

China to issue new electronic travel cards starting today

By Jonathan Chin  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Chinese authorities are to begin issuing new electronic “Taiwan compatriot travel document” (台胞證) cards to Taiwanese visitors today, replacing paper passes.

Though Chinese officials insist the measure is to facilitate cross-strait relations, Taiwanese academics expressed concern over privacy issues and national defense.

Beijing said on Tuesday that Taiwanese travelers can apply to its public security departments above the county level and hand in paper travel passes to obtain the computer-readable cards.

The move follows China’s introduction in July of permit-free treatment for Taiwanese visitors, which removed the need for an entry permit — similar to a visa — and in their place implemented an IC card for automatic entry.

Critics claim that the change is tantamount to downgrading the Taiwanese travel document’s legal status to the equivalent of the “Hong Kong and Macau resident travel permit to enter the neidi” (港澳居民來往內地通行證), also known as “home visit permits” (回鄉證), issued to Hong Kong and Macau residents.

During a visit in July to the US, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) said China’s unilateral decision to adopt the new IC card at such short notice showed disrespect to the nation.

He said Beijing should pay close attention to the opinions of Taiwanese on controversial issues such as China’s M503 air route, which closely follows the median line of the Taiwan Strait, as well as the introduction of the IC cards.

During another visit to Washington last month, Hsia repeated his concerns, saying several recent moves by China, including the IC card system and the use of an apparent replica of the Presidential Office Building in a military exercise by the People’s Liberation Army, were “very disrespectful.”

National Chung Hsing University professor of international relations Tsai Tung-chieh (蔡東杰) said that China is acting unilaterally because it has concluded from recent experience that it cannot rely on Taiwan’s cooperation to push forward cross-strait relations.

“Therefore, it resolved not to wait for the government’s assent,” Tsai said.

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