Wed, May 07, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Businesspeople hurt by SARS travel restrictions

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A DPP lawmaker yesterday urged the governments on each side of the Taiwan Strait to collaborate on alternative ways for Taiwanese businesspeople to renew their Mainland Entry Permit in China, given the present restrictions on travel.

"Due to the outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS], about 200,000 Taiwanese businesspeople in China are facing the challenge of renewing their Mainland Entry Permit before it expires," said DPP Legislator Chang Ching-fang (張清芳) at a press conference.

Of the 600,000 or so Taiwanese businesspeople in China, 200,000 are required to renew their permits every three months. That usually means a trip to either Hong Kong or Taiwan to file the renewal application.

Chang said the SARS epidemic has created serious concern about people going to Hong Kong to renew their visas.

At the same time, Taiwan's 10-day compulsory quarantine for people coming from China, Macau and other SARS-infected areas has made people reluctant to return home as well.

"They are trying not to return home in order reduce the danger of spreading the disease," Chang said.

Chang called on the government to take the initiative and press Beijing to automatically extend the Mainland Entry Permit of any Taiwanese that is due to expire soon.

If that doesn't work, Chang said, the governments should discuss the possibility of such businesspeople filing their applications without leaving China.

"The government is responsible for helping our businesspeople working in China stay there legally, even though the Chinese authorities are the only ones who can issue the permits," he said.

In response, a Straits Exchange Foundation official, surnamed Chen, said that businesspeople in some Chinese provinces have already been given residency extensions if their permits were due to expire soon.

"After consultations between local business representatives and Chinese public security authorities, our businesspeople in Shanghai, Tianjin, Shenzhen and Shenyang have been given permission to extend their residence permit with the local authorities," the official said.

The official said further negotiations are underway on similar extensions in other provinces.

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