Mainland tours resume for residents of Taiwan

Visitors take a trip on the Lijiang River, which flows through Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Allowing travel agencies to resume organizing group tours for Taiwan residents who want to visit the Chinese mainland will help expand cross-Strait exchanges and ease tensions, an expert on Taiwan affairs said.

The decision to resume such tours starting on Friday was announced by Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

Such trips had been suspended since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taiwan people are welcome to come for sightseeing and to witness the development of the mainland, he added.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism echoed Ma's statement, adding that local authorities are required to better assist tour operators with organizing such trips.

Wang Huning, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, called for the gradual resumption and expansion of cross-Strait exchanges during the annual work conference on Taiwan affairs held by mainland authorities on May 9 and 10.

Wang, who is also chairman of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top political advisory body, added that efforts will be made to make friends with people from all walks of life in Taiwan and promote mutual understanding between people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Zhu Songling, a professor at Beijing Union University's Institute of Taiwan Studies, said on Friday that the resumption of group tours for Taiwan residents is the latest move from mainland authorities to expand cross-Strait exchanges.

"It also sends a signal that the mainland hopes to ease tensions across the Taiwan Strait and pursue peaceful development," Zhu said.

While meeting a delegation of tour operators from Taiwan on Thursday afternoon, Song Tao, head of the Taiwan Work Office of the CPC Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said that peaceful development can be achieved across the Taiwan Strait if people adhere to the 1992 Consensus and stand against "Taiwan independence". As long as there is peace and stability, cross-Strait tourism can be resumed.

Hsiao Po-jen, head of the delegation and chairman of the Taiwan Association of Travel Agents, said tour operators always hope for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. People on both sides have the same roots and are part of a community with a shared future.

"Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people in Taiwan weren't able to visit the mainland during the past three years. The association plans to enable more Taiwan people to see the beautiful sights on the mainland and gain a better understanding of it," Hsiao said.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Chinese mainland received 6.13 million visits from Taiwan residents in 2019.