Taiwanese travel agents prepare for mainland meeting

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 July, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 July, 1994, 12:00am

TRAVEL agents in Taiwan will meet today to look at what needs to be discussed with mainland officials during their visit to China next month.

Travel safety in the mainland - now a big issue of dispute between Taipei and Beijing - was expected to be high on the agenda.

Wong Ji-han, convenor of the Mainland Affairs Committee of the Taipei Association for Travel Agents (TATA), said a committee would meet today to prepare for the visit next month.

Travel safety has been suggested by the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) as one of the items to be discussed with China's Association for Relations Across Taiwan Strait (ARATS) when representatives of the two semi-official organisations meet later this month.

Formal exchanges between the two bodies were stopped after the Qiandao Lake murder in March when 24 Taiwanese tourists were murdered by three mainlanders.

The issue of travel safety has been cause for a lot of friction between SEF and ARATS. While SEF claimed that any talks with ARATS must include travel safety, ARATS said it was not authorised by the Chinese Government to discuss the issue.

But Mr Wong said yesterday that it would be better to deal with the issue through informal contacts with mainland travel authorities instead of talks between SEF and ARATS.

''It doesn't matter whether they hold talks on travel safety or not.

''Our visits will certainly be more practical. I believe we can solve the problems quicker than the cross-strait meetings,'' Mr Wong said.

He also doubted if mainland officials would act according to the instructions from Beijing even if SEF and ARATS reach agreement on the issue.

According to plans, the TATA will meet tourism officials from Chengdu and Chongqing in Sichuan province and Changsha of Hunan.

''We're very interested to find out if mainland officials have really improved their safety measures as they had promised earlier, in areas such as air and road traffic and also social order,'' Mr Wong said.

''If they haven't, we will want to know what they plan to do next?'' Mr Wong said he did not expect the Taiwan Government would fully lift the travel ban this year as many Taiwanese were still upset at the frequent occurrence of travel accidents in China.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, the chairman of the Hong Kong-Taiwan Tour Operators Association, Kai Chuen-kam, said they also preferred private visits by travel agents of both sides to the cross-strait talks in pursuit of improving travel safety in the mainland.

''It's meaningless to push for putting the safety issue on the agenda. The important thing is to act rather than talk,'' Mr Kai said.