China bans individual travelers from visiting Taiwan
Taipei, July 31 (CNA) China on Wednesday announced that individual travelers from that country will be banned from visiting Taiwan starting August, citing the current strained cross-strait relations, five-months before Taiwan holds a presidential election in January 2020.
This is the first time Beijing has banned individual travelers from visiting Taiwan since such trips were first permitted in June 2011.
Currently, residents of 47 major Chinese cities can apply to visit Taiwan as individual travelers. All others who wish to visit have to apply through selected travel agencies.
The one-sentence notice, released on China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism website, said such trips would be suspended starting Thursday "in light of current relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait."
Although group trips to Taiwan have not been suspended, the announcement gave no indication how long the ban on individual travel will remain in place.
Chinese made a total of 1.67 million visits to Taiwan in the first half of 2019, a 30 percent increase compared with the same period last year, according to Taiwan's Tourism Bureau.
The tour-group visitor/individual traveler ratio from China is currently about 1 to 1.2.
Individual Chinese tourists made a total of 102,080 visits to Taiwan in May, with an average 3,293 visits per day, according to Taiwan government numbers.
Only about 60 percent of all Chinese individual travelers visit Taiwan for tourism purposes while the rest come for short-term business trip or other types of exchange, tourism sector representatives told CNA.
Travel Agent Association of ROC Taiwan deputy head Ting Lai (丁萊) told CNA that China previously restricted group travelers two or three months before Taiwan's last two presidential elections.
This is the first time China has banned individual travelers and with more than five months to go before the January presidential election, Ting noted.
Asked to comment, a senior Taiwan government official told CNA that the latest suspension means Beijing is going backward to "isolationism," which is not beneficial to cross-strait peace and regional stability.
Beijing has taken a hardline stance on cross-strait relations since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party took office in May 2016 and refused to accept the "1992 consensus."
The "1992 consensus" is a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between the then-Kuomintang (KMT) government of Taiwan and the Chinese government.
The consensus has been consistently interpreted by the KMT as both sides of the Taiwan Strait acknowledging there is only "one China" with each free to interpret what "China" means. However, Beijing has never publicly recognized the second part of the KMT formulation.
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