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Taiwan travelers cautioned after new state secrets law takes effect in China

05/01/2024 08:16 PM
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Shanghai, China. CNA file photo
Shanghai, China. CNA file photo

Taipei, May 1 (CNA) Taiwanese are reminded of the risks of visiting China following the enactment of an amended state secrets law on Wednesday, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) head Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said the same day.

Urging the public to be aware of the risks, Chiu said before a legislative meeting that the MAC will publish relevant precautions to be taken on its website as a reference.

China's amended version of the Law on Guarding State Secrets expands the definition of "state secrets" and the scope of entities responsible for confidentiality, according to an MAC press release.

The law's vague provisions increase uncertainty, which together with the low transparency of rule of law in China means the risk of Taiwanese travelers violating the law has significantly increased, the MAC said.

Meanwhile, as a response to China's recent announcement that it would allow tourists from Fujian province to travel to the Taiwan-controlled Matsu Islands, Chiu said during the legislative committee hearing that the MAC's original plan was to resume visits of Chinese tourists to Kinmen and Matsu Islands simultaneously, without placing restrictions on the provinces from which Chinese tourists originate.

The plan mentioned by Chiu was to resume cross-strait tourism under the "mini-three links," which include direct trade, postal, and transportation services between Kinmen and Matsu in the Republic of China (Taiwan), and the coastal area of China's Fujian province, according to an MAC report submitted to the legislative committee.

Chiu said China should promptly allow its citizens to visit Taiwan, rather than permitting some Chinese tourists to visit certain parts of Taiwan, or permitting Taiwanese tourists to travel to China, but not Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan.

In 2019, 2.71 million Chinese tourists visited Taiwan, 303,000 of whom visited Kinmen and only 6,500 went to Matsu, Chiu noted.

China halted independent travel to Taiwan on Aug. 1, 2019, citing the poor state of cross-Taiwan Strait relations. It then suspended group travel to Taiwan in 2020.

Meanwhile, Taiwan allows its citizens to travel independently to China, but not in tour groups arranged by Taiwanese travel agencies.

During a visit to Beijing by 17 opposition Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers from April 26-28, Beijing requested the resumption of direct sea routes for passenger ferries between Pingtan County, in Fujian and Taiwan as a condition for Fujian residents to be permitted to take part in group tours to other areas in Taiwan.

Chiu slammed China's measures with condition and regional restrictions, saying, "[The measures] completely do not adhere to the principle of equality that both sides [of the Taiwan Strait] had originally expected."

While KMT lawmaker Chang Chih-lun (張智倫) described China's announcement of a series of tourism measures as "extending an olive branch" to Taiwan, Chiu responded that "the olive branch probably has thorns," adding that whether the ban on group tours to China will continue will be decided by the new administration.

MAC deputy head Lee Li-jane (李麗珍) said that there was no unequal access based on region or conditions in the past, adding that China's move differs significantly from what was expected and clarifications are needed.

While promising that Fujian residents can definitely travel to Matsu, Lee said that relevant authorities still need time to discuss the matter, without specifying whether a response will be provided before May 20, when President-elect Lai Ching-te (賴清德) and his new administration take office.

(By Sunny Lai)

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