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Taiwan lukewarm about China's eased rules on travel to Matsu

04/28/2024 06:16 PM
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Passengers alight from a vessel from China in Kinmen in this CNA file photo.
Passengers alight from a vessel from China in Kinmen in this CNA file photo.

Taipei, April 28 (CNA) Taiwan's government on Sunday called on China to resume bilateral exchanges "without preconditions," after Beijing said it would once again allow tourists from Fujian Province to travel to the Taiwan-controlled Matsu Islands.

The eased travel restrictions were announced Sunday morning, following a meeting in Beijing between Rao Quan (饒權), China's deputy minister of culture and tourism, and a legislative delegation led by Kuomintang (KMT) caucus whip Fu Kun-chi (傅崐萁).

When asked about the decision later in the day, Taiwan's interior minister, Lin Yu-chang (林右昌), said that "equitable exchanges" between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are a "shared expectation and consensus" among the Taiwanese people.

The famous giant Mazu statue of Taiwan's Nangan Township in Matsu Islands. CNA file photo
The famous giant Mazu statue of Taiwan's Nangan Township in Matsu Islands. CNA file photo

However, such exchanges should occur without preconditions or any type of political considerations, in order to avoid suspicions about the motives, Lin said.

Travel links between Taiwan and China have been largely frozen for the past three years, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

China halted independent travel to Taiwan on Aug. 1, 2019, citing the poor state of cross-strait relations. It then suspended group travel to Taiwan in 2020. Both rules are still in effect.

Taiwan, meanwhile, has declined to lift its own COVID-era restrictions on the entry of most categories of Chinese visitors. Taiwan allows its citizens to travel independently to China, but not in tour groups arranged by Taiwanese travel agencies.

Meanwhile, China's decision to ease its travel restrictions applies only to Fujian residents traveling to Matsu -- not to Taiwan-controlled Kinmen, which sits just off the coast of the Chinese city of Xiamen.

Kinmen was not included in the decision because Chinese and Taiwanese authorities have not yet resolved a dispute over a Feb. 14 incident, in which a Taiwanese Coast Guard vessel pursued and collided with a Chinese speedboat that entered restricted waters near Kinmen, according to multiple Taiwanese news outlets, which on Sunday cited a source with knowledge of the matter.

Following the collision, the Chinese speedboat capsized, causing the deaths of two of the four men on board.

The Chinese government strongly condemned Taiwan for the men's deaths, while Taiwan said its Coast Guard was acting within the law to chase off a boat within its territorial waters. Kinmen prosecutors are still investigating the case.

(By Lu Chia-jung and Matthew Mazzetta)

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