TAIPEI, Taiwan – The cap on the number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan via the Free Independent Travel program is to be raised from 4,000 to 5,000 per day from today.
The revised cap is part of measures to boost the economy that the National Development Council announced last month, which also include an increase from Sept. 10 in the quota of visitors via the “small three links” through Kinmen and Matsu from 500 to 1,000 per day.
No change is planned to the daily number of Chinese allowed into the nation on group tours.
Civic groups yesterday criticized the Executive Yuan’s plan to allow more Chinese in on tourist visas and lax financial regulations concerning Chinese tourists’ eligibility to buy stocks on Taiwanese markets.
Economic Democracy Union convener Lai Chung-chiang said the council’s measures opened the way for 11,000 additional Chinese tourists per day, constituting an increase of 1,500 people daily, adding that the number does not include Chinese who sign up for lavish tours or are part of company-sponsored trips.
Since 2008, when Chinese tourists were first allowed to visit, President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration has constantly raised the cap and has never made a formal assessment of the volume of tourists that popular tourist sites could accommodate, Lai said.
The government must establish firm laws in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, Lai said, adding that despite Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen promising to enact such regulations if she is elected next year, she should also consider taking back her pledge of “no scaling down the total number of Chinese tourists.”
“If volumes can be shown to exceed the maximum amount destinations can accommodate, the government should consider decreasing the number of visitors allowed into the nation,” Lai said.
Lai said that the Financial Supervisory Commission has over the past year announced multiple policies relaxing restrictions on Chinese setting up accounts in Taiwan to buy Taiwanese stocks.
Lai accused the government of trying to turn Chinese tourists into economic investors by allowing banks to establish branches in airports and harbors, and allowing Chinese visitors to set up accounts with only an entry permit.
Taiwanese setting up accounts with banks are required to show two separate forms of identification, Lai said.
If only 10 percent of Chinese visitors to Taiwan last year — or 4 million — opened Taiwanese bank accounts at airports, it would have generated 1 billion yuan (US$157 million), exceeding the ceiling allowed for a Chinese qualified domestic institutional investor to invest in the nation according to Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement regulations, Lai said.
The measure is a bad way to try to boost the economy, he added.
Commission Chairman Wu Yu-chun said the policy is still under debate and would not go into implementation until it was brought up in discussion with other government units.