China 'cutting number of tourists to Taiwan by half'

TAIPEI • China is reportedly planning to halve the number of Taiwan-bound tourists in three stages this year as cross-strait relations continue to sour after the inauguration of the island's new President, Taiwanese media reported yesterday.

The total number of tourist arrivals from mainland China is estimated to fall to under two million this year, the United Evening News reported, down from the 4.1 million recorded last year by Taiwan's Tourism Bureau.

In the first stage, which took effect from March 20, Beijing was said to have cut the number of tourists by one-third or 50,000 from the original monthly quota of 150,000. The quota will be further reduced to 75,000 from next month, and to 37,500 from October, the newspaper said, citing tourism insiders.

Chinese tourists are estimated to have contributed more than NT$230 billion (S$9.7 billion) to Taiwan's economy last year, the island's China Times reported.

China reportedly started to curtail tourism in January after Ms Tsai Ing-wen from pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party was elected President.

Last month, China dismissed Ms Tsai's inauguration speech as an "incomplete answer sheet" in which she avoided using the term "1992 Consensus".

The Consensus, reached in 1992 between China and Taiwan, refers to a tacit agreement that there is only one China, but either side can interpret China on its own.

Beijing regards the Consensus as the foundation for developing cross-strait exchanges.

Apart from tourism, China is also allegedly reducing the number of mainland students allowed to attend universities in Taiwan.

The official communications channel and the semi-official exchange mechanism across the Taiwan Strait have all seemed closed, according to Taiwanese media.

But officials from Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Office (MAC) said the doors are not completely shut, remaining ajar to allow low-level exchanges of messages and information.

The officials also said the new government in Taiwan is trying to keep in contact with China through phone calls, faxes and the WeChat messaging platform.

"We have yet to receive any response from the other side of the strait, but at least they have 'read' our messages," an MAC official said.

THE CHINA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 12, 2016, with the headline 'China 'cutting number of tourists to Taiwan by half''. Print Edition | Subscribe