BEIJING — Beijing has banned individuals free travel to Taiwan, amid what it says are rising cross-strait tensions.
According to CNN, China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism has announced that beginning August 1, solo tourists from 47 Mainland cities will no longer be allowed to travel to Taiwan.
Nikkei Asian Review reports that Taiwan received over a million visitors from those cities last year, which accounts for 40% of Mainland arrivals.
Only business travelers and tour groups will be allowed to visit Taiwan, according to the South China Morning Post.
Several travel agents in China told Nikkei that they've stopped processing individual travel permits to Taiwan on Wednesday, following instructions from authorities.
With the Chinese making up 30% of tourists in Taiwan in the first six months of this year, Gordon Sun, director of the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, says the move will likely affect Taiwan's tourism industry.
Popular destinations for Chinese tourists such as Nantou, Chiayi, and Hualien may be hit particularly hard.
The ban comes weeks after the U.S. approved a controversial $2.2 billion arms deal with Taiwan — a move that Beijing opposed.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's visit to New York in mid-July also angered China.
According to Bloomberg, the ban may be yet another attempt to isolate both Taiwan and its independence-leaning president, as well as hurt her chances at re-election next January.