MAC rebuts allegations of restricting Chinese visits

Staff writer, with CNA

Sat, Oct 07, 2017 - Page 3

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday dismissed allegations that the government was restricting visits by Chinese tourists, saying it has in fact increased the quota to attract more visitors from across the Taiwan Strait.

“The government remains open and committed to boosting tourism across the [Taiwan] Strait, as bilateral tourism exchanges are conducive to forging a positive relationship between Taiwan and China,” said Shih Mei-yu (石美瑜), an official at the council’s Economic Affairs Department.

“To serve that end, we increased the daily quota for Chinese independent tourists from 5,000 to 6,000 in December last year,” Shih said at a news conference hosted by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖), who raised concerns about a decline in the number of Chinese independent tourists coming to Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May last year.

Citing statistics from the National Immigration Agency (NIA), Chen said that the ratio of Chinese independent tourists being denied visas to Taiwan has doubled in recent years.

In 2014, the denial ratio was 0.8 percent, rising to 1.48 percent last year and 1.89 percent in the first eight months of this year, he said. Chen said he believes the government has tightened its policy regarding visa scrutiny for Chinese independent travelers, as he has received many petitions about being denied a visa to Taiwan, some of which were only to attend a concert by Jay Chou (周杰倫) or to join a marathon.

Those kinds of Chinese visitors are usually peace-loving people with a strong affinity to Taiwan, whom the government should try hard to attract, he said.

National Immigration Agency section chief Ko Kuang-wei (葛廣薇) attributed the increase in the denial ratio to the holding of the Taipei Summer Universiade in August.

For national security reasons, visa applications from individuals suspected of being potential criminals were vigorously scrutinized, leading to a higher rate of rejection, Ko said.