Thu, Jul 22, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers want to know who is at fault for policies

By Debby Wu and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Legislators yesterday condemned the government's loose regulations on Chinese tourists, and were dissatisfied with various government agencies' attempts to shirk responsibility after 17 Chinese tourists disappeared on Tuesday.

"The incidents and disappearances are not unique. There have been similar incidents in the past, but various government agencies have kicked the issue to each other," Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chi Kuo-tung (紀國棟) said yesterday.

"The government has not been able to track the Chinese tourists in the past, and I am sorry to hear that the Mainland Affairs Council described this as a simple security issue. The council vice chairman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said the number of disappearances was within a tolerable range, but when will we reach an intolerable range?" Chi said.

As a response, the Immigration Office under the Ministry of the Interior National Policy Administration said it was looking into the feasibility of severer punishment for travel agencies when similar incidents occurr in the future, while the Aviation Police Office also said it would administer stricter monitoring on the Chinese tourist groups inside the airport until the groups were taken over by the Taiwanese guides.

The Democratic Progressive Party caucus also urged the government to tighten security controls and applications for Chinese tourists.

"Now we only accept applications for the Chinese tourists in the second and third categories, but still some have disappeared. The Tourism Bureau and the Mainland Affairs Council should review the related regulations to prevent similar incidents from recurring, and we should postpone application for tourists of the first category," DPP caucus whip Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said.

Responding to the incident, Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said that the government's long-term policy to allow Chinese tourists residing in China to visit Taiwan remains unchanged.

"While we're taking a gradual approach to handle the matter, it hinges on further negotiations with Beijing," Chen told the press conference held after the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday morning.

Currently, only two kinds of Chinese nationals are allowed to visit Taiwan. They are Chinese nationals [including Hong Kong and Macao] residing or studying overseas and those visiting a third country or conducting business trips overseas.

In addition to asking government agencies to find out who should be held accountable for the blunder, Premier Yu Shyi-kun yesterday requested a complete report within 15 days regarding how to strengthen the security system at ports of entry and to establish a tracking system for Chinese travelers.

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