Wed, Dec 08, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Chinese tour groups visit Kinmen in historic first

SMALL LINK Cross-strait exchange and the economy are expected to benefit after the first group of tourists arrived on the island since Beijing agreed to lift bans on tourism

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

A group of tourists from China's Fujian Province follow their guide through artist Lee Shi-chi's art installation ``War Bets on Peace'' yesterday. The work is part of the island-wide Bunker Museum of Contemporary Art in Kinmen exhibition, which makes use of defunct military installations as a venue for contemporary art reflecting on the conflict between China and Taiwan.

PHOTO: CNA

The arrival of the first three groups of Chinese tourists in Kinmen yesterday marked the launch of newly implemented tourism policies that are slated to bring increased cross-strait exchange and economic growth for the island.

"In the past, more Kinmen residents traveled to China through the `small three links' than the other way around, causing Kinmen residents to think that capital was leaving the island," Kinmen County Commissioner Lee Chu-feng (李炷烽) said yesterday when he received the three tour groups.

"This symbolizes a new start for the `small three links,'" Lee said.

While Taiwan opened its doors to Chinese tourists wishing to visit Kinmen and Matsu when the "small three links" were implemented in January 2001, Beijing did not give its approval until late September, when Fujian Province Deputy Governor Wang Mei-xiang (王美香) announced that the government was ready to lift bans on tourism.

A total of 55 Chinese tourists left Xiamen at 10am and arrived by boat in Kinmen just before noon. They were welcomed by Lee, Kinmen County Legislator Wu Cheng-tien (吳成典), and several travel industry representatives amid firecrackers, banners, and flowers. They began their tour of the archipelago with a look at the historic site of Wentai Pagoda and Kinmen National Park.

According to the Immigration Office's records from August, only 14,655 Chinese residents have traveled to Taiwan since the start of the "small three links," while 248,535 Taiwanese have visited China in the same time period. In addition, of the 14,655 visits to Taiwan, only 448 were for tourism and most of those trips were made by government officials.

China's approval of Chinese tourism in Kinmen should balance those figures and bring increased investment to the region.

According to a Kinmen County Government press release, among the tourists who arrived yesterday was the chairman of Xiamen C&D Corporation Ltd, a large state-owned enterprise with holdings in the real estate, travel and service industries.

Under current policies, 600 Chinese residents can visit Kinmen each day for a duration of three days. China has designated five Chinese travel agencies to handle and initiate these tours and authorized a handful of travel agencies in Kinmen to show tourists the attractions.

In addition, Taiwanese authorities have promised expedited service for the clearing of necessary travel documents, limiting themselves to a week to process material.

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