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Officials pin high hopes on new Taiwan-HK visa program

2012/05/15 21:09:45

Taipei, May 15 (CNA) Hong Kong's introduction of a free online visa application service for Taiwanese nationals is expected to boost travel exchanges and encourage greater cooperation between the two sides, the Mainland Affairs Council said Tuesday.

The council said it welcomed Hong Kong's decision to launch a simplified entry process this September that would allow Taiwanese visitors to submit free online applications for entry to the territory.

"We hope the public will take full advantage of the program, which we have been pushing for since last August," said Taiwan's top mainland affairs planner, in a statement.

The program is expected to serve as a huge incentive in the travel market, as about 2.5 million Taiwanese tourists usually visit the China-controlled special administrative region every year.

Currently, Taiwanese travelers can only obtain Hong Kong visas through travel agencies that usually charge fees of between NT$300 (US$10.17) and NT$800.

During a meeting with Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang earlier Tuesday, council head Lai Shin-yuan said that in addition to expanded tourism, she is looking forward to greater trade exchanges between Taiwan and Hong Kong amid warming ties.

Hong Kong is Taiwan's fourth-largest trade partner, and vice versa, with two-way trade totaling US$41.7 billion last year, according to Lai.

She suggested that the two sides work more closely on tax cuts and joint industry development in the future to expand the scale of cooperation.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)