Taiwan to allow Chinese living abroad to visit the island

Friday, November 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ Taiwan will allow Chinese who live abroad to visit the island as tourists, officials said Friday, relaxing a 50-year-old ban aimed at keeping out spies from the Chinese mainland.

Beginning Jan. 1, people from China with permanent residency rights in another country will be allowed to visit Taiwan, provided they come with a tour group, said Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's top official for China policy.

Tsai, chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Council, said she hoped to expand the new policy to include Chinese living on the mainland. But she said China must first agree to negotiate the details with Taiwan.

``We hope the Chinese mainland authorities can deal with the matter with reason and wisdom,'' Tsai told reporters. ``It would provide a good opportunity for the development of relations.''

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949, and Beijing still threatens to use force to reunify the two sides. Taiwan has long feared that Chinese spies or saboteurs might come to the island posing as tourists. Officials also worry that Chinese tourists might overstay their visas and work illegally.

On Friday, Tsai said that the new policy helps officials ``control the risks.''

Taiwanese officials said they expect large numbers of overseas Chinese to visit Taiwan during the Chinese New Year holiday in February. A daily limit of 1,000 such visitors will be imposed, they said.

However, mainland Chinese living in Hong Kong won't be able to come. Taiwan considers the former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, to be a part of China.

Last summer, Taiwan said it would allow Chinese tourists to visit the island to help prop up the slumping domestic tourist industry.

But China has refused to negotiate with President Chen Shui-bian's government until the Taiwanese leader agrees that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China _ a notion Beijing calls the ``one-China principle.''