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The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"For decades there was almost no contact across the Taiwan straight"
 real 28k

Sunday, 14 January, 2001, 15:39 GMT
Taiwan welcomes China tourists
Map
By Damian Grammaticas in Hong Kong

Taiwan has announced that it will begin to allow visits by tourists from mainland China for the first time in more than 50 years.

Taiwanese vice-president Annette Lu said the first phase of the new policy would allow up to half a million Chinese tourists to visit the island from July.

This decision to allow tourists from mainland China to visit is part of a slow process aimed at normalising relations between the two countries.

Small beginnings

The two split following China's civil war in 1949 and for decades there was almost no contact across the Taiwan Strait.

Vice-President Annette Lu
Lu hopes for up to half a million visitors
Just over 10 years ago Taiwan began to allow its citizens to visit China for family reunions.

Mrs Lu added that Taiwan was also working out regulations under which administrators of mainland Chinese government agencies and state run enterprises, together with senior figures from China's political and economic spheres, will be welcome to visit Taiwan.

Military manoeuvres by Taiwan army
Tensions remain high in the Taiwan Strait
The move comes just a fortnight after Taiwan allowed the first direct transport links between the island and the mainland, when it sanctioned sea links between some of its outlying islands and the Chinese coast.

The moves are seen as important steps to both countries joining the World Trade Organisation later this year.

There will still be some restrictions for mainland tourists, who will have to enter and leave Taiwan via different points.

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