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Casinos off-limits to visiting Chinese tourists

TAIPEI -- The Chinese government will forbid its citizens from visiting casinos while encouraging them to travel to Taiwan for pleasure, a top Chinese tourism official said Saturday in the island county of Kinmen.

“It is Taiwan's own business to legalize gaming. The mainland's law makes it very clear that gambling is not permitted,” said Shao Qiwei, director of China's National Tourism Administration.

Shao made the remarks when asked by reporters about the possibility of Chinese citizens visiting Kinmen to gamble at casinos in the future.

Kinmen, along with other Taiwan-held outlying islands such as Penghu and Matsu, has become a potential site for Taiwan's first legal casino, following the passage by the Legislative Yuan in January of an amendment to the statute governing the development of outlying islands that permits the opening of casinos on these islands.

Leading a large delegation of tourism officials and travel industry representatives from China's 30 major provinces, Shao is currently visiting Taiwan to boost cross-Taiwan Strait tourism. He was scheduled to return to China later Saturday via the ferry service between Kinmen and the Chinese city of Xiamen.

Although Taiwan opened its doors to more Chinese tourists in July 2008 and expanded the daily quota of arrivals to 3,000, Taiwan received only 300 Chinese tourists per day on average during the six months to December.

The average number has doubled to 600 people per day during the first two months of this year, but it still remains far behind the target.

In a bid to help increase the number of Chinese visitors to Taiwan, tourism groups in Jiangsu and Shandong provinces have launched a campaign to promote tours to Taiwan, with the goal of seeing 10,000 residents from each of the provinces traveling to Taiwan between late February and June.

Meanwhile, more than 12,000 sales representatives of the direct selling company Amway China will travel to Taiwan aboard cruise liners between March and May.

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