Thu, Jul 22, 2004 - Page 3 News List

One missing tourist found in Taoyuan

ECONOMIC EMIGRANT Chih Kuo-chuan, who was captured at a friend's house by police, said he just wanted to find a job and was not a Chinese spy

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

Members of the Aviation Police Bureau check the travel documents of members of a Chinese tour group at CKS International Airport yesterday. More stringent measures have been adopted towards tour groups from China since the disappearance of 17 Chinese ''tourists'' last week.

PHOTO: TONY YAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Police have located at least one of the seventeen Chinese tourists who were reported missing after having arrived in Taiwan from Fujian Province last Tuesday, according to investigators in Taoyuan.

Chih Kuo-chuan (池國全), a 46-year-old male, was arrested early yesterday morning in Taoyuan County. Chih had been staying with friends, and according to local police reports had thus far refrained from seeking employment in Taiwan to avoid arousing suspicions linking him to the Han Kuang military drills that began yesterday.

In addition, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) confirmed during a press conference yesterday morning that "a few of the Chinese tourists had been located," but he refrained from elaborating, saying it would interfere with the police investigation.

According to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications' Tourism Bureau, the 17 Chinese tourists arrived in Taiwan from Fujian Province after having passed through Thailand first.

The group was supposed to depart on Tuesday, but government officials confirmed on that day that the group had failed to report to the travel agency responsible for greeting the group at the CKS Airport.

The National Police Agency said that the group consisted of 13 men and four women, all of whom are middle-aged.

Chih revealed yesterday that the travel package had cost him 26,000 Chinese yuan and confirmed that plans for the tour group to illegally seek employment and residence in Taiwan had been arranged in conjunction with snakehead, or human smuggling, gangs.

Chiu said the government has already begun taking steps to improve cross-strait tourism regulations.

"The Council has already held two meetings to discuss this issue. For starters, the Aviation Police Office and the Immigration Office of the National Police Agency, along with the Tourism Bureau, should draw up new policies to ensure that even though travel agencies are unable to enter restricted customs areas in the airport, the tour guide must be able to hand the tour group over to local travel agencies," Chiu said.

However, tourism authorities went so far as to suggest that local travel agencies greet Chinese tour groups before customs procedures.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-san (林陵三) told reporters that the agencies should consider permitting local travel agencies access to restricted customs areas in the airport, so as to meet the tour groups before they clear customs.

Lin further said that he did not rule out the possibility of establishing a special customs lane at the airport for Chinese tourists.

Lin, who has pushed for relaxing regulations on cross-strait tourism, expressed that he hoped of negotiate the issue with his Chinese counterpart at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Tourism Ministerial Meeting scheduled for October.

Taiwan barred cross-strait tourism until Jan 2002, during which new regulations allowed select overseas Chinese nationals to visit Taiwan. The government further relaxed restrictions in May 2002 to allow Chinese nationals to visit Taiwan after passing through a third country.

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