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Hong Kong eases visa rules for Taiwan visitors

world Updated: Apr 15, 2009 16:57 IST

AFP
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Hong Kong on Wednesday further eased the rules for visitors entering from Taiwan, the latest sign of thawing relations with China.

Taiwanese visitors travelling to China through Hong Kong would previously not have been able to enter the city unless they had a separate entry or exit endorsement for the mainland. But the endorsement requirement will be scrapped on April 27 and visitors will be allowed to stay in the southern Chinese city for up to seven days, a Hong Kong immigration department spokesman said.

The move comes during a trip by the mayor of Taichung city, Jason Hu, and a 90-person Taiwanese delegation to Hong Kong. Donald Tsang, Hong Kong's chief executive, said after a meeting with Hu that the trip was a "breakthrough" in relations, according to local broadcaster RTHK.

During a meeting with Hu, Tsang expressed the hope that ties could be strengthened in a number of areas, including trade, finance, tourism and education, according to an RTHK report.

Hu said stronger ties with Hong Kong would hopefully improve relations between Taiwan and the mainland, the report said.
Trade and travel links between China and Taiwan have been severely restricted since the two sides split at the end of a civil war in 1949, and were dire during the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party's eight years in government.Beijing sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Relations between the island and China have improved dramatically since President Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang became president last May.

Hong Kong, although it has a separate legal and immigration system from the mainland, has often been reluctant to entertain top Taiwanese officials for fear of offending Beijing.

Earlier this year, Hong Kong extended the limit of stay for Taiwanese visitors from 14 days to 30 days for holders of certain visas.