China’s culture ministry said it would stop issuing individual travel permits for Taiwan to people in 47 of its cities on Wednesday, in a move intended to squeeze the island’s economy ahead of presidential elections next year.
Chinese citizens need permission to travel to Taiwan, a democracy which Beijing considers to be its own territory and has threatened to annex, by force if necessary. Only travellers from the 47 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen are allowed to visit Taiwan independently.
In a curt and unexpected statement, the Chinese authorities said such trips would be suspended from Thursday “due to current cross-strait relations” but it did not elaborate further.
Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwanese president and her government have been vocally supportive of Hong Kong’s recent pro-democracy protests.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council condemned the move, which will raise concerns within the tourism industry which still relies heavily on Chinese visitors.
“We are not delighted to see the normal tourism and exchange across the Strait were disrupted by political factors,” it said in a statement.
Beijing has frozen political ties with Ms Tsai’s government since she was elected in 2016 because her ruling Democratic Progressive Party has refused to recognise the Chinese view that Taiwan is part of “one China.”