Taiwan given assurances over China's new travel card: premier

Taipei, Sept. 22 (CNA) China has given a "positive response" to Taiwan's concerns over a new electronic card issued to Taiwanese visitors, Premier Mao Chi-kuo (???) said Tuesday. At the request of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, the Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) under China's State Council clarified late Monday that all information stored in the card would be consistent with that on the passport-style document that it replaces, Mao told reporters. The TAO has also said that the new card, which looks like a credit card with the bearer's picture, will only be used for travel purposes, Mao said. The premier reiterated Taiwan's hope that no new measures related to exchanges across the Taiwan Strait should be implemented until after a consensus is reached through full consultations between the two sides. On Monday, Mao expressed Taiwan's "extreme dissatisfaction" over the lack of discussions prior to China's announcement that it would begin to issue the new card that day. The Chinese side notified Taipei of the new electronic card before a trial in July and its full implementation Monday without prior consultations, said Lin Chu-chia (???), deputy chief of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the Cabinet agency responsible for relations with China. There has been a lack of consultation despite Taiwan's persistent demand that there should be prior consultations before any important policy concerning cross-Taiwan Strait relations is announced, Lin said at the Legislative Yuan. The new travel pass will replace the paper document that Taiwanese citizens had used to enter mainland China until Monday. Taiwanese citizens are not able to use their Republic of China (Taiwan) passports to travel to China because Beijing views Taiwan as part of China and maintains that the two sides should be united one day. In the public notice issued on Sept. 15, the Chinese government said Taiwan residents can apply to its public security departments above the county level to exchange their travel document for the new card. Chinese authorities will stop issuing paper documents on Sept. 21, the notice said. Those who do not exchange their existing paper document can continue to use them until they expire, according to Lin. To coincide with the introduction of the new card, China began in July to allow Taiwanese visitors to enter its territory without the need to first apply for an entry permit similar to a visa. The IC card system for Taiwanese travelers was implemented on a trial basis July 1, less than a month after China announced the change, and Taiwan was officially informed of the new policy 20 minutes before it took effect, according to MAC chief Hsia Li-yan (???). While the new measures make it easier for Taiwanese to travel to the mainland, China's adoption of the smart card was viewed with suspicion among many in Taiwan, who questioned whether it was designed to downgrade Taiwan's status to that of Hong Kong and Macau. The card is similar to the "home visit permits" issued to residents of Hong Kong and Macau, China's two special administrative regions which used to be British and Portuguese colonies, critics said. Some Taiwanese scholars have also expressed concerns over possible information security breaches with the use of the card. Experts have said that the smart chip embedded in the card would make it easy for Taiwanese tourists in China to be subjected to police surveillance. (By Tseng Ying-yu and Jay Chen)

Updated : 2021-03-02 07:34 GMT+08:00