Sat, Dec 27, 2003 - Page 3 News List

President reaffirms policy on tourists from China

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday reaffirmed the government's policy of welcoming tourists from China, saying that even though the authorities in Beijing have consistently restricted their people from visiting Taiwan, the Cabinet should seek opportunities to negotiate with China to realize the goodwill policy.

"The government has often announced [its intent to] open Taiwan to Chinese tourists, but the Chinese authorities have not been willing to ease the strict restrictions on their people visiting Taiwan," Chen said.

"Therefore our side has announced again and again that we hope the relevant ministries and councils will continue to communicate with the other side, based on the principle of openness, so that the policy of opening Taiwan to Chinese tourism can be realized soon," Chen said.

Chen gave an eight-point instruction after a meeting of the president's economic advisory group yesterday. The eight points include a reiteration of the policy of opening Taiwan to Chinese tourists.

Presidential Office Secretary-General Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) added that the Beijing authorities have so far not removed Taiwan from the list of countries that they prohibit Chinese citizens from visiting. The two sides need to continue to communicate, Chiou said.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) divided Chinese tourists into three categories: local residents, Hong Kong and Macau residents, and long-term overseas residents. In the past only tourists from the second and third categories were able to visit Taiwan, because of China's restrictions.

"We hope to expand visitor groups from the second and third categories to the first category," Chiou said.

"As for Taiwan, it needs to make some adjustments as well," Chiou said.

"The regulations requiring that tourists from China must travel in groups and which stipulate that they may not leave hotels at night still have a lot of room for improvement. These regulations can be lifted and Taiwan can immediately implement new measures, as long as China approves. Except for military officials, all other people from China should be able to visit Taiwan as soon as possible," he said.

Chiou said that according to Taiwanese laws and decrees, local government officials are allowed to visit China in special circumstances, as long as the purpose, objective and schedule of their visits, such as to attend an international meeting or conference, are approved by the Cabinet.

"The question is whether China accepts their visits -- Taiwan's government has no stance on the issue," he said.

Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) vice chairman and the convener of the president's economic advisory group, said during the press conference that it is not normal to see a one-way development of the cross-strait tourism industry which benefits only China.

"Right now, nearly 4 million tourists from Taiwan visit China per year, while Beijing still upholds a ban on its people wishing to visit Taiwan," Siew said.

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