File photo: Members of a Taiwanese independence group march with flags around the group of pro-China supporters in Taipei. Photograph:( Reuters )
Relations between Communist-ruled Beijing and Taipei have plummeted since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016
China stepped up pressure on Taiwan Wednesday as it announced the suspension of individual travel permits to the self-ruled democratic island "due to current cross-strait relations".
A programme had allowed Chinese citizens in 47 mainland cities to apply for permits to visit Taiwan on their own instead of visiting on group tours.
But the tourism ministry said in a brief statement that their issuance would be suspended from Thursday "due to current cross-strait relations".
Relations between Communist-ruled Beijing and Taipei have plummeted since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016 because her party refuses to recognise the idea that Taiwan is part of "one China".
As punishment, Beijing has cut official communications, ramped up military exercises, poached diplomatic allies and ratcheted up economic pressure on the island.
China is holding military exercises in the East China Sea and the South China Sea near Taiwan this week, days after a defence white paper said Beijing would not rule out retaking the island by force.
The China Maritime Safety Administration issued notices on Sunday and Monday warning against entering broad swaths of airspace and waters off the coast of eastern Zhejiang and southern Guangdong provinces due to "military activity".
Beijing sees Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting unification, even though the two sides have been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.
The defence white paper published last week stressed Beijing's willingness to use force to thwart any move towards the self-ruled island's independence.