Driver started bus fire; tourism at risk

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By CHI­NADAILY

Tourism to Tai­wan may take an­other blow, on top of the al­ready de­clin­ing num­ber of main­land vis­i­tors, fol­low­ing the end of a probe into the bus blaze on July 19 that killed 26 peo­ple, ex­perts say.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors con­cluded on Satur­day that the driver in­ten­tion­ally caused the deadly in­ci­dent.

On Satur­day, the Taoyuan District Pros­e­cu­tors’ Of­fice, mak­ing pub­lic the find­ings of its probe, said bus driver Su Ming-cheng set him­self alight us­ing gasoline with a group of 24 main­land tourists and one tour guide on board.

Ac­cord­ing to the pros­e­cu­tors, it was a pre­med­i­tated act by Su, who had been com­plain­ing about a five-year sen­tence he had been given in a separate crim­i­nal case.

Pros­e­cu­tors say Su filled a plas­tic con­tainer with 8.3 liters of gasoline at a gas sta­tion in Chi­ayi on July 14 and stored it on the bus. He later used the gasoline to set the bus ablaze.

Su had con­sumed large amounts of al­co­hol be­fore he crashed the bus on the high­way, trap­ping of all the pas­sen­gers inside the fire en­gulfed ve­hi­cle, the pros­e­cu­tors said.

The tour group, from Liaon­ing prov­ince, was min­utes away from the Tai­wan Taoyuan In­ter­na­tional Air­port, where they had been sched­uled to catch a plane back to the main­land.

The fire is likely to hit to the tourism in­dus­try, which had al­ready suf­fered from sharp falls in the num­bers of tourists from the main­land since new leader Tsai Ing-wen took of­fice in May.

“Although the probe it­self is re­spectable and shows fair­ness and ob­jec­tiv­ity, the re­sults trig­ger wor­ries over the pos­si­bil­ity that there could be more peo­ple with men­tal in­sta­bil­ity,” said Liu Xiang­ping, head of the In­sti­tute of Tai­wan Stud­ies at Nan­jing Univer­sity.

Liu added that the lack of sym­pa­thy shown by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties may also deepen the con­cerns of in­se­cu­rity for main­land tourists at a time when cross-Straits re­la­tions are at a low point.

Tsai sent a con­do­lence in­scrip­tion to the me­mo­rial ser­vice of Cheng Kun-wen, the Tai­wan tour guide killed in the in­ci­dent, yet failed to do so for the 24 main­land tourists. In her de­fense, of­fi­cials claimed they didn’t re­ceive such re­quests.

Sta­tis­tics re­leased by the is­land’s tourism bureau recorded a de­cline of onethird in the num­ber of tourists in May and early June com­pared with last year.

In an in­ter­view with China Re­view News Agency, Wu Ying-Liang, chair­man of Kaoh­si­ung As­so­ci­a­tion of Travel Agents, claimed a “60 to 70 per­cent” de­crease in tourists from the main­land in re­cent months com­pared to last year.

The govern­ment de­scribed the fire as an “iso­lated” in­ci­dent that must not be al­lowed to un­der­mine cross-Straits tourism. It was the govern­ment’s pol­icy to open the doors to tourists from the main­land, and it would con­tinue to im­prove the qual­ity and safety of cross-Straits tourism, the is­land’s Main­land Af­fairs Coun­cil said.

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