Thu, Aug 05, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Chinese tours hinge on Beijing

HELLO, GOODBYE The Cabinet said it would increase the flow of Chinese tourists if Beijing came to the negotiating table, while pledging heavier punishments for violators

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

A policy regulating cross-strait tourism could be revised to allow more Chinese tourists into the country if Beijing agrees to discuss the matter, the Cabinet said yesterday.

"With the introduction of extra and appropriate security measures, we can let more Chinese tourists visit Taiwan. However, details of the measures hinge on negotiations with Beijing," Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) told a press conference yesterday after the weekly closed-door Cabinet meeting.

Two categories of Chinese nationals are permitted to enter the country. The first is those residing or studying overseas [including Hong Kong and Macao], while the second is those visiting a third country or conducting business via a third country.

While the nation welcomes tourists from China, Chen said, those who enter the country as tourists but engage in unapproved or illegal activities are not welcome.

Chen said that the Chinese government does not generally allow its nationals to visit Taiwan, but then blames Taiwan's government if things go wrong.

"In addition to punishing Chi-nese travel agencies offering Taiwan tours on the grounds of sabotaging national security, the Chinese government insists on conducting bilateral talks on the lifting of restrictions on cross-strait travel under the `one China' principle," he said.

The Cabinet's appeal to Beijing follows the disappearance of 17 Chinese tourists on July 13. The tourists from Fujian Province failed to meet the Taiwanese travel agency representative that was waiting to greet them at the airport. Two members of another tour group from China disappeared on the following day, and another on July 15.

In addition to demanding that the government officials responsible for the blunder be identified, Premier Yu Shyi-kun on July 21 requested a report within 15 days on how to reinforce security at ports of entry and to establish a tracking system for Chinese travelers.

During yesterday's meeting, Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) briefed the premier on a new package of measures that are designed to deter Chinese tourists from disappearing after legally entering the country.

Within two weeks, tightened security measures will be applied to Chinese tourists at ports of entry and then after entering the country.

In addition to monitoring tourists from "risk areas" such as Fujian, the government will tighten the review process and even deny entry for individual tourists or tourist groups with a history of visa violations.

The Aviation Police Office will train 20 more officers to assist law enforcement personnel in administering the stricter measures for Chinese tourist groups within airports until the groups are met by Taiwanese guides. A special counter will also be set up at airports to process Chinese tour groups.

More severe punishments will also apply for travel agencies when such incidents occur. The agencies are required to hold the entry and departure permits for all Chinese tourists and return them to their owners before departure. The government will conduct random checks and visits during their stay.

Photos of Chinese tourists violating travel regulations will be posted online. Harsher punishments will apply to Taiwan nationals or companies that illegally hire or harbor Chinese nationals, Chen said.

The Cabinet is also amending several laws to better regulate travel agencies and tour guides.

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