Fewer local students in Taiwan, tourism booming

The delegation visited the Dashu Old Railway Bridge Wetland Park in Kaohsiung city. Du Jiafen (inlet pictured) talks with journalists

The relationship between Taiwan and the SARs has not been affected by the relationship between Taiwan and mainland China,” declared Du Jiafen, Secretary of Taiwan- Hong Kong Economic and Cultural Cooperation Council.

On the second day of the visiting Macau media group’s trip to Penghu County, Du met with the group having spoken about several topics related to the SARs relationship with Taiwan, in particular the relationship with Macau.

According to data provided by Du, in 2017 more than 1.06 million Taiwan residents visited Macau, while 150,000 Macau residents travelled to Taiwan.

“The number of Macau and Hong Kong students studying in Taiwan has been increasing [overall],” said Du. “Currently, 13,400 Hong Kong and Macau students are studying in Taiwan, approximately 5,200 of whom are from Macau.”

However, a decrease in the number of Macau students has been seen since 2016 when 5,529 students studied in Taiwan. The number went down to 5,116 in 2017.

The decline may be related to families having fewer children, while mainland China has simultaneously been attracting Macau students.

“Mainland China’s recruitment of Macau students appeals to them. [The decrease in the number of Macau students in Taiwan] is related to mainland China’s measures and policies,” said Du, who is also head of the Department of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs for the Mainland Affairs Council of the Executive Yuan of Taiwan.

Nevertheless, SAR students are still the largest group of foreign students in Taiwan. Independently, the number of Macau students ranked third among foreign students in Taiwan, with mainland China in first place and Hong Kong in second.

In Taiwan, there are policies benefit  students who come from the SARs and wish to stay after finishing their studies. According to Du, 80 percent of SAR students who applied for a work and stay permits in Taiwan through these policies were successfully approved.

Generally speaking, SARs students normally choose to study in Taiwan due to the influence of their parents.

“I am still positive about the future number of Hong Kong and Macau students studying in Taiwan,” declared Du.

In recent years, many SAR residents have travelled to Taiwan through the free travel schemes instead of packaged tours. Free-travel-scheme tourists from the SARs represent the majority of all free-travel-scheme tourists. On average, SAR free-travel-scheme tourists visit Taiwan four times per year. “Young people come to Taiwan during winter and summer vacations,” said Du.

The Taiwan government representative also made a few comments on Taiwan’s overall environment. “Taiwan’s officials do not seem like officials. […] We don’t have bureaucracy. […] It is related to Taiwan’s democracy. Young people like it and like Taiwan’s rather open and friendly environment,” said Du.

“Policies concerning Hong Kong and Macau residents are rather [relaxed] compared to policies for foreigners,” said Du. “Because mainland China has antipathy towards Taiwan, Taiwan has tight control over mainland China [residents].”

While addressing other policies related to the SAR residents, in particular Macau residents who are in possession of both a SAR passport and foreign passport, Du noted that Taiwan offers more relaxed policies for SAR passport holders than for foreign passport holders.

“Regarding Hong Kong and Macau residents, before 1997 and 1999, the polices were rather relaxed. Since [Hong Kong] and [Macau] became SARs of mainland China, [Taiwan] hopes to continue beneficial policies [for the SARs],” said Du. “Macau students studying in Taiwan enjoy beneficial policies, including health insurance and the right to work while studying, which foreign students do not enjoy,” she added.

“[Taiwan immigration] recommends [Macau residents] to make a choice between [either using a SAR passport or a foreign passport] to enter Taiwan,” explained Du, adding that the current legal regime is not able to apply beneficial policies to SAR residents if they enter Taiwan with a foreign passport. Beginning last year, Taiwan eased visa application procedures for residents of both SARs.

Taiwan has always been regarded by the Chinese community as a place where outstanding Chinese movies are produced. On the topic of movie-making with Hong Kong and Macau, Du said that Taiwan is “supportive” of such cooperation.

“As to the exact actions [for cooperation], they need to be discussed with the cultural department,” said Du, adding that Taiwan hopes to export more of its own movies.

Previously, several Taiwanese citizens holding passports with Republic of Taiwan stickers were denied entry to Macau.

When questioned by the Times, Du said that Taiwan’s foreign affairs authority, “has been intensifying publicity to advise Taiwanese not to modify their passports.”

Speaking with the Macau media, Du acknowledged that the relationship between mainland China and Taiwan has “not been so good” for the past two years. The relationship became more tense after Tsai Ing-wen started her presidency.

As explained by Du, “The constitutional law of the Republic of China is a law inclined to unification.”

“Regardless of whether it is the Democratic Progressive Party or the Kuomingtang, […] they all need to maintain stability across the Taiwan Straits.”

As stated by Du, Ma Ying-jeou, the previous leader of Taiwan, and the Taiwan government had several meetings with mainland China regarding the 1992 Consensus. During the meeting, leaders of both regions agreed to jointly respect the One China with Respective Interpretations policy.

“However, after Tsai stepped into position two years ago, mainland China kept talking about the 1992 Consensus, but the One China with Respective Interpretations has disappeared,” said Du, who also remarked that, “Taiwan does not have the conditions to pursue independence.” Julie Zhu, Taiwan*

*The journalist is in Taiwan at the invitation of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Macau

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