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Taiwan to Reopen Its Borders to Chinese Tourists From Third Places: Premier

Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said on Friday that Taiwan will soon reopen its border to Chinese tourists coming from a third place as the government comes under pressure to break the impasse between Taipei and Beijing that has crippled cross-strait tourism, first by politics and then the COVID-19 pandemic.

The idea to allow Chinese tourists traveling from a third place outside mainland China has been under discussion within the government for quite a while and details on how to roll out the new policy will be announced soon, Chen said in a Facebook post Friday evening.

Chen’s post came after one day after business groups and local travel operators voiced their frustration at the impasse in cross-strait travel that began in 2016.

Beijing has maintained the ban on group tours coming to Taiwan even after it announced on Thursday that it has added another 78 countries to the list of destinations where Chinese tourists are allowed to go on group tours after it loosened COVID-19 travel restrictions in January 2023.

Hsu Shu-po (許舒博), the president of the General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China, told reporters on Thursday that the government should step up efforts to end the current stalemate in cross-strait relations.

Meanwhile, local travel agencies on the same day called on the government to extend an olive branch to Beijing by removing the ban on Taiwanese tour groups visiting China, a suggestion they had been repeatedly made, to resolve the impasse.

A source with the travel business, who wished to remain anonymous, told CNA on Thursday that travel operators might take to the streets to make their voices heard if the government continues to remain unresponsive to their appeal.

The government initially responded to the exclusion of Taiwan on China’s list of 138 destinations for outbound group tours by repeating calls for Beijing to scrap the ban against Taiwan, but it later moved beyond rhetoric and announced the resumption of inbound Chinese tourists who travel to Taiwan from a place outside mainland China.

Meanwhile, the government urged China to open talks with Taiwan on resuming travel between the two sides on the basis of equality and reciprocity to restore post-pandemic cross-strait exchanges in a healthy and orderly manner.

According to the government’s officials, it had expressed a wish to China, before China’s announcement on Thursday, that both sides simultaneously lift its respective bans on tourists, but China has yet to respond.

Since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016, the country has seen a sharp decline in the number of Chinese tourists, a result of China gradually tightening its control and management of tourists to Taiwan, widely seen as one of its strategies in retaliation for Tsai’s refusal to endorse the notion of “one China.”

Beijing has banned Chinese tourists from traveling independently to Taiwan since Aug. 1, 2019, citing “current cross-strait relations,” and later banned group travel in January 2020 during the beginning of the pandemic.

China has also kept the ban on applicants to Taiwanese universities.

Taiwan, on the other hand, allows individuals to go to China for travel or study.

But Taiwan has maintained the ban on travel agencies organizing group travel to China, which is part of its COVID-19 control measures, and has not reopened its border to Chinese tourists.

Source: Focus Taiwan