Chinese tourists in Taiwan (CNA file photo)
Beijing, Jan. 11 (CNA) The number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan totaled 3.61 million in 2016, a drop of nearly 800,000 from the previous year based on an initial estimate, a spokesman from China's Taiwan Affairs Office said on Wednesday.
This represents the first fall in eight years, Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) said.
In contrast, Taiwanese made 5.73 million visits to China in 2016, an increase of 300,000 from the previous year, he said.
Asked about the fate of the "three mini links" in the wake of chilly cross-strait relations following the inauguration of Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party in May, Ma said the program will continue.
He reiterated China's continued support for cross-strait links, adding that the "three mini links" program has played an important role in cross-strait personnel and logistic exchange.
"As long as the peaceful development of cross-strait relations does not further deteriorate, I think the program will continue to operate normally," Ma said.
The "three mini links," inaugurated on Jan. 1, 2001, refers to direct trade, postal and transportation links between Taiwan's outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu and Xiamen and Mawei in China's Fujian province.
People from both Taiwan and China have used the mini links to travel back and forth, avoiding having to transit through Hong Kong or other places, particularly before direct cross-strait flights began in 2008.
Asked about suggestions that China plans to scale down exchanges with Taiwan including the "three mini links," Ma said such reports were "speculation on the part of the Taiwanese media" and declined to comment.
The development of cross-strait relations faces uncertainty this year and the challenges posed will grow, Ma said.
He also said that mainland China will continue to insist on the "1992 consensus," and oppose any forms of Taiwan independence.
Ma said that as long as Taiwan recognizes the historical fact of the "1992 consensus," the resumption of stalled cross-strait dialogue would not be a problem.
His remarks came after a U.S. official urged the resumption of cross-strait dialogue.
James Moriarty, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, said during a meeting with President Tsai in Houston on Sunday that the United States is aware of developments in cross-strait relations and urges China to resume cross-strait dialogue.
Tsai made a stopover in Houston en route to Central America.
(By Yin Chun-chieh and Lilian Wu)