Skip to main content

China to open disputed islands to tourism

By Hiufu Wong, CNN
April 8, 2013 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
An aerial view of Sansha -- China's newest city, which is located on Woody Island and part of the Paracels.
An aerial view of Sansha -- China's newest city, which is located on Woody Island and part of the Paracels.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sightseeing cruises flagged to start in April on disputed island
  • Area is in a region claimed by a number of Asian countries
  • China considers Sansha its newest city

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Sightseeing cruises to China's newest city, Sansha, located on a disputed island in the South China Sea, are set to commence this month, according to a Chinese official.

The move is certain to add to the dispute over sovereignty claims to the area.

Woody Island, known as Yongxing Island in Chinese, has a population of about a thousand, including military personnel. It's located 300 kilometers southeast of Hainan and was established as China's latest prefecture in June 2012.

The city of Sansha has the smallest land area, but the largest sea area in China.

Sansha's government has been set up to administer the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands), the Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha Islands) and the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands), which include Woody Island.

The islands are partly claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan.

Shown in the map above are the islands. Closest to Sanya are the Paracel Islands. Further east is the Macclesfield Bank and south are the Spratlys.

Sightseeing only

Islands in dispute.

The cruise tour statement is a sign that China is bolstering its claim to the territory.

Visitors won't be allowed to stay on the island. Instead, cruise-goers will eat and sleep onboard and only sightsee on the island, said Hainan deputy governor Tan Li at press conference at the annual Boao Forum for Asia over the weekend.

"We have started the planning and development of Sansha, including basic infrastructure, at full speed," Tan was quoted by state-run Xinhua News Agency (Chinese).

"Sansha's sightseeing routes, scenic spots and docking locations have been confirmed. We are hoping to begin [the cruise operation] before May 1."

Some 12 projects, including a berth for larger supply ship, freshwater supply, sewage and garbage treatment facilities are under development in Sansha.

The first phrase of Yongxing Pier has been completed and begun trial operation.

Sansha's first mayor, Xiao Jie, said last month the development and improvement of Sansha city will strengthen China's sovereignty of the islands.

Xiao said that the priority would be conservation of the natural habitat, according to the state's travel network, The Travel Channel.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0459 GMT (1259 HKT)
Of course you don't really need that LV trunk that converts into a deluxe shower, but wouldn't it be cool?
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1843 GMT (0243 HKT)
Get ready to pucker up -- to celebrate National Kissing Day on July 6, travel deals website Travelzoo has released a list of the world's top 10 romantic movie locations.
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
In honor of Canada Day, a look at some of the country's most incredible manmade and natural beauties.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0617 GMT (1417 HKT)
VW ended Kombi production last year, but the spirit of adventure that endowed the vehicles lives on in Uganda.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0248 GMT (1048 HKT)
CNN wants to know the wonderful, bizarre and indispensable items you pack when getting ready to hit the road. Tell us #howipack
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 2200 GMT (0600 HKT)
This is what happens when you ask a super-car designer to create a super swanky train.
July 6, 2014 -- Updated 2140 GMT (0540 HKT)
A 666-meter-long bridge shaped like a fire-breathing dragon heralds a new era of prosperity in Da Nang, Vietnam.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT)
There's a chance of being trampled or even gored, but thousands flock annually to the Spanish fiesta immortalized by Ernest Hemingway
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 0854 GMT (1654 HKT)
Alcazar castle in Spain will stand in for Water Gardens of Dorne in the popular HBO series.
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 1638 GMT (0038 HKT)
Before you join the masses in the hopes of snapping a geisha on her way to work, it's worth learning a few unwritten rules.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 0808 GMT (1608 HKT)
Baptiste Dubanchet poses with food he's recovered from a trash can.
To highlight food waste, Frenchman travels across Europe fueled only by food recovered from trash cans.
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 0731 GMT (1531 HKT)
Tour companies are cashing in on demand from timid thrill seekers who want to safely experience Bangkok's infamously raunchy nightlife.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1657 GMT (0057 HKT)
Dreading airport security, lost luggage or that middle seat? These travel headaches could be a thing of the past by 2024, according to a new report on the future of travel.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
Latest model of aircraft affectionately known as the Queen of the Skies gets the red ribbon treatment, but jumbo jets are facing tough times
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
A former soldier plans to trek every country in the world, having been diagnosed with PTSD.
ADVERTISEMENT