Taiwan visitors told not to embarrass SAR during stay
DENNIS ENGBARTH and GLENN SCHLOSS
Travellers from Taiwan are having their travel documents stamped with warnings saying that they should not embarrass the SAR during their stay.
Immigration officers are placing the notices in permits carried by travellers who have only recently been granted visa-free entry as part of efforts to increase visitors from Taiwan during the tourism slump.
The Chung Hwa Travel Service, Taiwan's unofficial representative office, described the warning as 'offensive'.
General manager Cheng An-kuo said he would ask the SAR Government through 'various channels' to cancel the warning, which had been placed on travel permits since a change in policy on June 1. It tells visitors they cannot represent Taiwan or its agencies, display flags or take part in activities which would 'embarrass' the SAR Government.
The stamp reflects SAR authorities' fears that Taiwan might take advantage of the relaxation of vetting procedures, which had previously stopped some officials from being granted visas.
'Attention visitors: during your stay in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, you cannot represent the Taiwan area or Taiwan agencies (including the display of symbols or flags of relevant agencies, entities or organisations) nor engage in or participate in activities that embarrass the Hong Kong Special Administrative Zone Government,' the stamp says in Chinese.
A Taiwanese official said: 'I don't think it is a kind action towards Taiwanese people, especially during this stage when they [Hong Kong] need Taiwanese tourists.' A Hong Kong Immigration Department spokesman said the conditions were not new and were previously on application forms for Hong Kong permits, which visitors travelling on to the mainland no longer had to obtain.
They were now stamped on to their China travel permits issued in Hong Kong, he added.
Mr Cheng, however, said Hong Kong was treating Taiwanese people even more harshly than the mainland was.
Taiwan government officials visiting the mainland directly only had to submit a statement outlining the purpose of their visit and promise to keep their activities to that area.
Documents of Taiwanese going directly to the mainland were not stamped with the 'embarrassment' warning, and mainland officials or citizens visiting Taiwan were not issued with them either.
'I don't understand why Hong Kong would have more restrictive treatment for Taiwanese tourists than the mainland,' Mr Cheng said.
He raised the issue with legislator Howard Young, who represents the tourism sector.
Mr Young told Mr Cheng he had no knowledge of the stamp but promised to raise the issue with immigration officials as the practice could impact on the willingness of Taiwanese citizens to visit the SAR while in transit between the island and mainland China.