Thu, May 02, 2002 - Page 4 News List

PRC tourist rules relaxed

BAN EASED The government wants to double tourist arrivals in the next six years and is hoping that much of the increase will come from across the Taiwan Strait

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Pushing the normalization of cross-strait exchanges a step forward, the Executive Yuan yesterday approved a measure allowing Chinese nationals authorized by the Chinese government to travel or do business abroad to visit Taiwan.

In addition, Chinese nationals staying overseas, including Hong Kong and Macao, for over four years and obtaining a work permit will be allowed to visit Taiwan as well as their spouses and immediate relatives.

The trial scheme will go into effect on May 10.

Currently, only Chinese nationals studying abroad or having a permanent residency in a foreign country are allowed to visit Taiwan.

Addressing a press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday morning, Cabinet Spokesman Chuang Suo-hang (莊碩漢) quoted Premier Yu Shyi-kun as saying that the new measure manifested the government's long-standing good-will and sincerity toward improving cross-strait relations.

"We're calling for the Chinese authorities to reciprocate this good-will by allowing Chinese nationals to visit Taiwan and to open a brand-new era of cross-strait exchanges," Chuang said.

The Cabinet hopes the relaxation of the ban on Chinese tourist from China itself -- as opposed to those resident overseas -- would bring in more Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan which would boost the local tourism industry and related businesses.

The Cabinet aims to revitalize the nation's tourism industry by doubling the annual number of foreign tourists that visit Taiwan annually from the current 990,000 to 1.98 million within six years.

On Jan. 1 this year, the government kicked off a trial scheme to allow Chinese nationals studying abroad or having permanent residency in a foreign country to visit Taiwan.

As of April 30, a total of 179 Chinese nationals meeting the requirements had been approved to come, but only 78 of them did so.

Critics said that certain requirements of the scheme may have sapped the enthusiasm of Chinese tourists.

Points at dispute include that Chinese tourists are required to return to their hotels before 11pm during their stay in Taiwan, and that at least 10 people are required to form a tour group to visit Taiwan.

Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Council, told the press conference yesterday that certain adjustments will be made when the new scheme takes effect on May 10.

"No more reporting before 11 pm, and the minimum number of people to form a tour group will drop from 10 to seven," Tsai said.

A face-to-face interview for a visa will no longer be needed unless deemed absolutely necessary.

However, Chinese tourists will still have to visit and leave Taiwan as a group and group members will not be allowed to go shopping or visit friends on their own.

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