China halts individual travel to Taiwan amid rising tension

People from the mainland need permission to travel to the self-ruled island that Beijing regards as a renegade province.
People from the mainland need permission to travel to the self-ruled island that Beijing regards as a renegade province.PHOTO: ST FILE

BEIJING • In its latest effort to increase pressure on Taiwan, Beijing said it will suspend a programme that allowed individual tourists from 47 Chinese cities to travel to Taiwan, citing the current state of relations between the two sides.

The ban is effective from today, according to a statement yesterday from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and means that Chinese nationals can only travel to Taiwan as tourists if they are part of tour groups.

The unexpected move comes as China attempts to isolate Taiwan and its independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen.

The move may also be aimed at hurting her re-election chances in January's presidential election.

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council condemned China's move in a statement yesterday, saying cross-strait tourism is an important way of promoting better understanding between both sides.

Taiwan's Tourism Bureau said in a statement yesterday it regretted Beijing's decision and hoped for a return to positive interaction with China.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2019, with the headline 'China halts individual travel to Taiwan amid rising tension'. Print Edition | Subscribe