China suspends individual tourism to Taiwan - The360 Travel

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  • Saturday, December 14, 2019

    China suspends individual tourism to Taiwan

    China suspends individual tourism to Taiwan

    China is pulling the weapon of tourism against Taiwan: it will forbid Thursday its citizens to travel to the island on an individual trip, the ruling party on the island territory denouncing a "political pressure."

    The Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced Wednesday on its website that it will "suspend" from 1 August issuing passes to individual tourists "because of the current relations between the two shores."

    Tensions are brisk between mainland China and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who has refused since taking office in 2016 to recognize the principle of unity of the island and the continent within a single China - as Beijing claims.

    The People's Republic of China regards Taiwan as one of its provinces. But the territory is ruled by a rival regime that took refuge after the communist takeover of the continent in 1949, after the Chinese civil war.

    By targeting tourism, Beijing seems to want to hit a Taiwanese economy already in bad shape and destabilize Tsai Ing-wen, whose training (PDP Progressive Democratic Party) traditionally militates for the independence of the island.

    Ms Tsai hopes to be re-elected in the next presidential election in January 2020. She will have as main opponent Han Kuo-yu, the candidate of the Kuomintang (KMT) party advocating a pragmatic rapprochement with mainland China.

    "Authoritarian regime"

    "With this measure (suspension), Beijing hopes to return the professionals (Taiwanese) of tourism, travel and catering against the president," said J. Michael Cole, a specialist from Taiwan at the University of Nottingham (England).

    "We can expect hope of recovery (travel) if Han Kuo-yu is elected in January," he notes.

    After Beijing's surprise announcement on Wednesday, reactions were quick in Taiwan.

    The Tourism Office said it was "lamenting" the suspension of the trips, hoping for their "quick recovery", saying they "should not be hindered by political factors".

    "Taiwan will not give in to this political pressure and will open its arms to more tourists coming from a greater number of countries," denounced the PDP in a statement, lambasting "the authoritarian regime" in Beijing.

    Han Kuo-yu, the rival of the Taiwanese president, has himself denounced in a statement a measure "useless" that will "create unnecessary barriers" to human exchanges.

    Mainland China has allowed residents of 47 cities to apply for laissez-passer for a few years to travel to Taiwan as an individual tourist.

    Previously, the Chinese had to be part of a group. A mode of travel still very popular, including older tourists.

    Military exercises

    The Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism did not mention Wednesday these group trips to Taiwan, hinting that they were still possible.

    In recent years, as a sign of dissatisfaction with Tsai Ing-wen, Beijing has already halted its official communications with Taipei, torn apart some of Taiwan's last diplomatic allies and increased military maneuvers near the territory.

    Two naval exercises are also organized this week a few hundred kilometers north and southwest of the Taiwan coast.

    Taiwan had already seen a sharp drop in tourists from Mainland China after Ms. Tsai came to power.

    The decline was attributed by Taiwanese professionals to Beijing's pressure on travel agencies on the continent to limit travel to the island.

    With about 23 million people, the vast majority of whom are Han Chinese, as in mainland China, Taiwan is not recognized as an independent state by the UN. And Beijing regularly threatens to resort to force in case of formal proclamation of independence in Taipei.

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