Wed, Jul 08, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Chinese might be able to arrive alone

PILOT PROGRAM Amid calls to loosen restrictions to boost arrival numbers, Chinese visiting outlying islands might not need to arrive on or travel with a group tour

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER , MATSU

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said yesterday the government was considering allowing Chinese visitors to travel without a tour or other group in Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on a trial basis.

If the pilot trial is successful, the plan would be applied to Taiwan proper, he said.

Current cross-strait agreements require that Chinese tourists travel in a group of at least five for their entire trip.

There have been calls for the government to relax regulations on Chinese tourists as the number of arrivals has dropped to less than 1,000 people per day from a peak of more than 3,000 per day a few months ago.

“We did notice the phenomenon [falling arrivals] and we do have some ideas [on how to increase numbers], but we still need to negotiate [with the Chinese],” Liu told reporters who asked him about the issue during a tour of Matsu.

TALKS NEEDED

Tourism Bureau Director-General Janice Lai (賴瑟珍) said her office will discuss the issue with China through the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association, a private group representing the tourism industry, and its Chinese counterpart.

“To relax the regulations might involve revisions of cross-strait deals [that opened Taiwan to Chinese tourists],” Lai said.

The government was also considering loosening some conditions on landing visas granted to Chinese tourists.

Starting on Sept. 30 last year, the government has issued landing visas to Chinese tourists visiting Kinmen and Matsu who do not hold positions in the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) or the Chinese government.

The Executive Yuan announced last month that the landing visa service would soon be extended to Penghu, but the proposal had not been approved.

Local politicians in Matsu suggested the government loosen restrictions.

“I hope people from the [CCP], the Chinese government and its army can receive landing visas as it usually takes two weeks for them to obtain approval from the National Immigration Agency to visit Matsu,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Tsao Erh-chang (曹爾忠) said.

Lienchiang County Commissioner Chen Hsueh-sheng (陳雪生) called on Liu to allow a limited number of Chinese to travel visa-free to Matsu for a maximum of three days.

NO VISA-FREE

Liu said that Tsao’s suggestion was “worthy of discussion” and was under deliberation by the government, but he rejected the visa-free idea.

“We have never considered allowing Chinese tourists visa-free access,” Liu said.

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