China to drop entry permit requirement for Taiwan residents visiting mainland

BEIJING (Reuters) - China plans to drop the entry permit requirement for Taiwan residents visiting the mainland, the official Xinhua news agency cited a senior Chinese politician as saying on Sunday.

Mr Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of China's National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, made the comments at an annual forum between the mainland and Taiwan, Xinhua said.

The move is an inducement from China to Taiwan ahead of the island's presidential election in January, offering to make life easier for the hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese who travel to the mainland for work or leisure every year.

Taiwan and China have been ruled separately since the Communists defeated the Nationalists and took power on the mainland in 1949, though relations have warmed considerably since the China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou won the presidency in 2008 and secured re-election in 2012.

However, there have been no political talks and deep suspicions exist on both sides, especially in proudly democratic Taiwan.

Taiwan's pro-independence party, the Democratic Progressive Party, has a strong chance of retaking power.

In March last year, thousands of young people occupied Taiwan's parliament in an unprecedented protest against a planned trade pact calling for closer ties with Beijing, and the Nationalists suffered a heavy setback in local elections in November.