China will stop issuing individual travel permits for Taiwan to people in 47 mainland cities from Thursday, its culture and tourism ministry said, citing the state of ties with the self-ruled island.
People from the mainland need permission to travel to what Beijing regards as a renegade province. Only travelers from 47 cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen, were allowed to visit Taiwan independently.
Mainland travelers with permits issued before Thursday can follow the original itinerary, but after that date, tourists can only go in groups, said China International Travel Service (CITS), a major mainland tour operator.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council expressed its stern protest and condemnation of the move to China.
“The mainland authorities unilaterally destroyed the agreement without communication with our side,” the panel said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We are not delighted to see the normal tourism and exchange across the Strait were disrupted by political factors.”
The ban comes months ahead of Taiwan’s presidential elections in January. Beijing has long viewed Tsai Ing-wen with caution since she became Taiwan’s president in 2016, suspecting that she is pushing for the island’s formal independence.
It comes amid a rebound in numbers of mainland tourists to Taiwan, which stood at 1.67 million in the first half, up 28 percent from a year earlier, official data shows.
Last year, 2.69 million mainland tourists visited the island, a drop of 1 percent from a year earlier and a decline of 35 percent from the peak in 2015, data from Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau shows.
China’s military held exercises this week in waters near Taiwan, following a warning last week that it was ready for war if there was any move toward independence for the self-ruled island. Reuters
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