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China says it will resume group tours for Taiwan residents to mainland

People look across the strait from a lighthouse at the 68-nautical-mile scenic spot, on Pingtan Island

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will allow travel agencies to resume organising group tours for Taiwan residents to visit the mainland from Friday, said Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesperson at China's Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

In a statement, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said it welcomed the decision and that the two sides must communicate and make arrangements to ensure tourism quality.

The Council also urged Beijing to lift a ban on Chinese tourists visiting the island.

Beijing banned individual travel permits for Chinese visitors to the democratically governed island in 2019, citing the state of ties with Taiwan, which China considers its own territory despite Taipei's strong objections and has ramped up military pressure to force the island to accept Chinese sovereignty.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who refuses to bow to Chinese pressure, had called the ban a "political tool" Beijing used to manipulate the island's presidential elections in 2020.

(Reporting by Beijing Newsroom and Yimou Lee; Editing by Himani Sarkar)