China will stop issuing individual travel permits for Taiwan to people in 47 mainland cities from August 1, its Culture and Tourism Ministry said on Wednesday, citing the state of ties with the self-ruled Island, but gave no details.
People from the mainland need permission to travel to what Beijing regards as a renegade province.
Only travellers from 47 cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen, were allowed to visit Taiwan independently.
China’s military held exercises this week in waters near Taiwan, following a warning last week that it was ready for war if there was any move towards independence by the Island for what Beijing regards as a renegade province.
“We’re aware of the suspension,” said another operator, Shanghai Spring International Travel Service. “Today is the last day to apply for the permit as individuals.”
Travellers who had booked individual trips but had yet to obtain permits could consider group travel, travel agency Ctrip said.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council conveyed its stern protest and condemnation of the move to China. It comes ahead of Taiwan’s presidential elections in January.
“The mainland authorities unilaterally destroyed the agreement without communication with our side,” the panel said in a statement.
“We are not delighted to see the normal tourism and exchange across the Strait were disrupted by political factors.”
In recent years, China has stepped up military drills around Taiwan, including regularly flying what Beijing calls “island encirclement” exercises and sending warships into surrounding waters.