China plans to lift travel restrictions for Taiwanese travelling to the mainland as part of measures designed to reduce barriers between the two sides of the strait.
Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, made the announcement at a forum in Xiamen, but did not give a date when the policy would take effect, The Business Times reports.
“We’ll consistently support exchanges among compatriots of the two sides and firmly oppose the separatist forces’ obstructive intent to the peaceful development of the relations,” Mr Yu said, according to Xinhua, referring to political parties that want to declare Taiwan as a separate country.
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 residents currently need to apply for a permit, which is basically a visa all but in name, before travelling to the mainland. As part of the reform, the passport-like document that was previously required will be replaced with a card allowing automatic entry.
Since he became president in 2008, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s pro-Beijing Kuomintang party has led a rapprochement with China, signing more than 20 trade deals and welcoming large numbers of mainland tourists to the island.
But many ordinary Taiwanese feel they have reaped little benefit from the trade pacts and worry about getting closer to Beijing, which led to massive protests and the three-week occupation of parliament over a trade deal last year.
By Lucy Liu