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Associated Press
Taipei, Taiwan – Chinese tourists arriving in Taiwan this week may meet face to face with followers of the spiritual group Falun Gong but tourism authorities will try to prevent any possible confrontations, an official said Tuesday.
Tourism Bureau official Chang Shi-chung made the comments as Taiwan prepared to welcome hundreds of Chinese tourists scheduled to arrive Friday with the launch of regularly scheduled charters flights between the mainland and the island.
Chang said Taiwanese tour guides will explain to the Chinese visitors about Taiwan’s unrestricted freedom of speech, and ask them to stay calm when facing any Falun Gong members.
Falun Gong, a spiritual movement rooted in Buddhism, Taoism and traditional Chinese beliefs, has been persecuted in China and Beijing banned it as an “evil cult” in 1999.
But followers are allowed to practice freely in Taiwan, and they have promoted the movement at sightseeing spots popular with Chinese tourists.
Falun Gong members have ignored requests by the Tainan municipal government in southern Taiwan to stay away from several popular tourist sites.
Taiwan and China signed a historic agreement June 13 to sanction regular weekend charter flights between the sides. Taiwan hopes up to 1 million Chinese could visit the island annually under the deal.
Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. Beijing continues to claim the self-ruled, democratic island as part of its territory, and has threatened war if Taiwan moves to formalize its de facto independence.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who took office in May, has promised to ease tensions with China and boost Taiwan’s sluggish economy with tourism and other close economic exchanges.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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