Taiwan's legislature may open to Chinese tourists

AP News
Posted: Jun 25, 2011 1:03 AM
Taiwan's legislature may open to Chinese tourists

Taiwan's parliamentary speaker has said he will consider opening the legislative floor to Chinese tourists so they can learn from the island's freewheeling democracy.

Lawmaker Wu Yu-sheng of the ruling Nationalist Party proposed late Friday that the legislature open its floor to the visiting Chinese because "out of all places in Taiwan, the legislature is where democracy is most thoroughly implemented."

Speaker Wang Jin-pyng agreed to study the proposal to help spread the island's democracy to authoritarian China, according to television reports.

More than 600,000 Chinese tourists visited Taiwan last year. The two sides split amid civil war in 1949 and China still claims the democratic island a part of its own territory, but ties have improved substantially under Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's three-year efforts to engage China economically.

Taiwanese tour operators say many Chinese tourists _ used to the propaganda programs on state TV _ have asked to stay in their hotels to watch the freewheeling TV political talk shows on Taiwan.

The United Daily News said a number of Chinese college students had received a "shock education" when interning at Taiwan's legislature.

"They were surprised that our lawmakers could question and even shout at senior government officials," the report said.

Taiwan's senior officials, from the premier to all ministers, regularly deliver reports to the legislature and patiently answer lawmakers' questions in lengthy sessions. Following Taiwan's transformation to democracy in the 1990s, lawmakers frequently ripped off microphones and brawled with their colleagues over differences, but such displays have given way to verbal debates in recent years.

Taiwan's leaders hope the visiting Chinese envy the island's freedoms and human rights and in turn demand that their government relax its strict political controls.

The influx of Chinese tourists has brought a business bonanza to Taiwanese luxury hotels, stores for designer goods as well as souvenir and snack vendors. Chinese tourists have had to travel in supervised group tours, out of fear some of them may stay behind to work illegally, but Taiwan officially allowed them to travel on their own earlier this week. The first independent Chinese tourists are scheduled to arrive Tuesday.