China plans to lift a visa requirement for Taiwan residents traveling to the mainland, according to state media. The move comes ahead of Taiwan’s presidential election next January.
Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, reportedly made the comments at an annual summit between Taiwan and the mainland which was held in the southern Chinese city of Xiamen.
State news agency, Xinhua, citing a senior Chinese politician, did not give a date as to when the policy was due to take effect.
Currently, Taiwanese residents must apply for an “entry permit,” similar to a visa, before being allowed to travel to the mainland.
A card which would allow automatic entry will replace the passport-like document that has been previously used as a entry permit, Xinhua reported.
The announcement is seen as an inducement from China to Taiwan ahead of the island's planned presidential election in January.
China and Taiwan have been under separate rule since the Communists defeated the Nationalists and subsequently took power of the mainland in 1949.
However, relations have waned in recent years when China-friendly Ma Ying-jeou won the 2008 Taiwanese presidential election and then secured re-election in 2012.
Since his election, Ma's pro-Beijing Kuomintag party has sealed more than 20 trade deals with China and a tourism boom as mainland visitors flock to the island.
Hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese nationals travel to mainland China for work or leisure each year.
In March last year, thousands of young Taiwanese participated in massive protests, occupying the houses of parliament in Taipei in an unprecedented demonstration against a planned deal for closer ties with China.
Earlier this year Beijing scrapped plans to allow unlimited entry to Hong Kong for mainland Chinese visitors.
The decision to restrict entry to mainland Chinese was aimed at curbing the practice of "parallel trading" in which visitors who cross the border buy up highly sought after goods such as baby formula and resell them in China's border towns.
The influx of millions of Chinese to Hong Kong prompted protests by residents which led to clashes with police.
Visitors are now restricted to one visit per week.
jlw/jr (AFP, Reuters)