Taiwan is easing restrictions on visits to the island by Chinese citizens. The ruling party hopes the move will give it a boost ahead of next week's legislative election and help the ailing economy.
With only eight days left before Taiwan holds legislative elections, the government relaxed some restraints on tourist visits by mainland Chinese. This ends more than five decades of a complete ban on tourist visits by mainland citizens.
The head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, Tsai Ying-wen, notes that the government is relaxing the curbs in time for the high tourist season in January, right before the Lunar New Year holidays.
"Taipei wanted to lift restrictions in June," Tsai says, "but the lack of progress in talks with Beijing on cross-strait issues blocked a complete end to the ban." She also says that "if talks with Beijing begin, Taipei could relax the rules further."
Under the new rules, only mainland citizens who are living and working in other countries will be allowed visas. They must travel to and from Taiwan as part of a tourist group and may stay for no longer than 10 days. Mainland Chinese from Hong Kong will not be permitted, nor will tourists directly from China.
Taiwan and the mainland have been governed separately since the Communist Party took control of the mainland in 1949. Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan and insists that its definition of "one China" be the basis of talks with Taiwan over cross-strait issues.
Taiwan's DPP government has refused to hold talks under that condition. During the current election campaign, Taiwan opposition parties have criticized the government for its stance.
Taiwan's economy also is fodder for campaign debate. Because of the world economic slump, Taiwan has seen exports fall and unemployment rise. The government thinks tourism can be developed to boost the flagging economy, and sees China as a large pool of pent up tourist demand.