Taipei has temporarily refused entry to two reporters from the People's Daily in what is seen as the start of a visa war across the Taiwan Strait. The reporters from the central government mouthpiece were due to arrive on the island yesterday for a month-long assignment, but were told on Saturday that their entry permits would not be issued for another week. Officials from the island's Mainland Affairs Council said yesterday the delay was a warning to the mainland media to stop publishing articles hostile to Taiwan. After the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office warned mainland-based Taiwanese businessmen against supporting independence for the island on May 24, the People's Daily launched an attack on Shi Wen-long, chairman of the Chi Mei petrochemical and electronics group, in its May 31 editorial. It said the mainland did not welcome businessmen who supported Taiwanese independence and singled out Mr Shi as an example. At the weekend, financial daily China Business reported that mainland authorities had stopped providing loans for Chi Mei's expansion project in Zhenjiang , Jiangsu province . However, company officials in Taipei said they had not heard about this. After the People's Daily editorial was published, a mainland news website speculated that the mainland could impose economic sanctions against Taiwan. The article sparked a 3.5 per cent fall on the island's stock market. 'We have repeatedly offered our goodwill ... since the daily printed its editorial attacking our enterprises,' an official with the council said. But there had been no let-up in the media attacks, 'so that's why we want to give them a clear signal by delaying the issuance of the entry permits', he said. A source in the Taiwanese cabinet said some security advisers had proposed denying entry visas to the People's Daily reporters in retaliation. But Mainland Affairs Council chairman Joseph Wu Jau-shieh said this would affect the policy of extending goodwill to the mainland and council officials decided in the end to just delay the permits for a week, the source said. Meanwhile, mainland authorities have refused to grant entry permits to at least two leaders of large Taiwanese industrial and business groups, cable news channel TVBS has reported. Lee Cheng-jia, of the Industrial Promotion Association, and Tai Sheng-tung, of the Medium Enterprises Association, were said to have been refused entry permits. Both have close links with President Chen Shui-bian's government.