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Taiwan hoping for show of 'goodwill' from China on group travel ban

02/20/2024 06:46 PM
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Tourists wait in line at Taipei Songshan Airport on Tuesday. CNA photo Feb. 20, 2024
Tourists wait in line at Taipei Songshan Airport on Tuesday. CNA photo Feb. 20, 2024

Taipei, Feb. 20 (CNA) Transportation Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said Tuesday that if the Chinese side shows "goodwill" regarding tourism and other issues, the government may lift its ban on China-bound tour groups from June.

Wang told reporters before a hearing in the Legislature that a show of "goodwill" from China would entail the Chinese government allowing tourists to visit Taiwan. He cited an estimated NT$80 billion (US$2.54 billion) deficit in the tourism industry that he said would otherwise impact hotel and restaurant operators.

Secondly, Wang said, China needs to respect Taiwan's sovereignty and reach an agreement with Taiwan regarding the issue of the M503 flight path adjustment.

Wang went on to say that the Tourism Administration decided to ban tour groups visiting China from June per relevant laws following the M503flight path incident in late January and Nauru severing diplomatic ties with Taiwan earlier that month.

He noted that those who have arranged group trips with departure dates between March 1 and May 31 can still proceed and that Taiwan was waiting to see if China would show "goodwill" before the ban comes into effect.

Earlier this month, the Tourism Administration announced that it was canceling its plans to allow group travel to China from June, citing recent hostilities from Beijing and its failure to allow tourists to visit Taiwan.

Currently, the only group tours of Chinese nationals eligible allowed by Beijing to enter Taiwan are those who reside outside of China.

The administration cited how Beijing unilaterally ended its "offset" of the M503 flight path -- which is west of the median line of the Taiwan Strait -- on Feb. 1 and also started operations on the W122 and W123 flight paths, which connect M503 with Fuzhou and Xiamen cities in Fujian Province.

However, Taiwan People's Party Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) previously said that the law only permits the government to punish travel agencies after trips to China have taken place, rather than banning them in advance.

In response, Wang said that the Tourism Administration moving to cancel plans to allow group travel to China was not in violation of the law.

He added that Article 53 of the Act for the Development of Tourism allows competent agencies to punish those who jeopardize the success of the country.

According to the regulation, the operators of hotels, travel, tourist amusement enterprises, or homestay facilities who tarnish national dignity, damage national interest, violate good morals, or defraud tourists shall be fined from NT$30,000 to NT$150,000.

If a serious offense occurs, the offender's business operations can be partly or completely closed for a fixed period, or their operation licenses or registration certificates can be revoked.

(By Kuo Chien-shen and Evelyn Yang)

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