Mon, Jan 27, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Opposition legislators say flights a start

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Opposition lawmakers urged the government to accelerate the opening direct of links as the first charter flight between Taiwan and China in 54 years returned to Taipei yesterday.

DPP and TSU lawmakers, however, did not see the charter flights as the start of direct links opening, although some DPP lawmakers suggested that the government move in this direction.

"The meaning of these charter flights is significant. They may give the government an example of how to proceed with direct links," said KMT Legislator Lee Chia-chin (李嘉進).

"The government should thoroughly review its direct-links policy. Before the government opens direct links, it should continue approving domestic airlines' applications to operate charter flights between Taiwan and China," Lee said.

According to Lee, the government should allow charter flights on other significant holidays and permit carriers to fly to major centers in China.

Lee added that the KMT caucus will propose adding a direct links section to the Statute Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (兩岸關係條款) during the next legislative session.

PFP Legislator Chung Shao-ho (鍾紹和) backed Lee's suggestion of allowing charter flights on other major holidays.

"The government should put aside its political considerations," Chung said.

Another PFP lawmaker, Chiu Yi (邱毅), said his party will cooperate with the KMT to pass a direct-links act during the next session.

"The realization of the charter flights allows the possibility of direct links," Chiu added.

However, DPP legislative whip Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said the charter flights are simply a "temporary measure."

"The charter flights are not the government's first step toward direct links," Chen said.

DPP Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) said the flights do not have much significance, but added that direct links would help the economy in the long term.

"Direct links is the way Taiwan will have to go," Lee said.

DPP Legislator Chang Ching-fang (張清芳) also urged the government to start talks with China.

"Many Taiwanese businessmen in China believe direct links are impossible. Some of them have decided not to return to Taiwan for the Lunar New Year," Chang said.

TSU Legislator Huang Chung-yung (黃宗源) said the charter flights only benefit a small portion of the Taiwanese businesspeople based in China.

"Less than 40 percent of the seats offered on the charter flights have been filled. TSU lawmakers will refuse to back a direct links act if it does not give Taiwan and China equal status," Huang said.

Meanwhile, the six airlines which obtained permission to operate the charter flights see the flights as an opportunity to gain access to the Chinese market.

TransAsia Airways chairman Tony Fan (范自強) and China Airlines president Philip Wei (魏幸雄) both boarded their companies' first charter flights to China.

EVA Airways president Steve Lin (林寶水), Mandarin Airlines president Mike Lo (樂大信) and UniAir president Cheng Kuang-yuan (鄭光遠) also planned to go on their companies' first charters to China.

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