Tue, Apr 01, 2003 - Page 1 News List

`Small three links' suffer a blow

DEADLY DISEASE Fears about the spread of SARS prompted the Mainland Affairs Council to shut Lienchiang County's links, however Kinmen's links remain open

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) moved to temporarily suspend Lienchiang County's "small three links" yesterday in order to hinder the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

But Kinmen's links with China would remain open for now, MAC Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said in a press conference yesterday

"While we work to improve Kinmen's defenses against SARS, we will remain on watch for any further SARS developments in China's Guangdong Province to assess and decide later whether Kinmen will also have its links suspended," Tsai said.

Initiated in January 2001, the "small three links" allow trade and transportation links between Taiwan's Kinmen and Lienchiang County and China's Fujian Province. Fujian is next to Guangdong Province, where the majority of SARS cases have been reported and which is thought to be the origin of the SARS outbreak.

The Lienchiang County Government sent a letter to the Cabinet last Friday calling for a temporary suspension of the links.

The Kinmen County Council had also suggested the Kinmen County Government to make a similar request as a preventive measure against the deadly respiratory disease.

Tsai said that although the links in Lienchiang County have been suspended, administrative procedures for permission to use the links would remain in operation.

According to Tsai, the suspension of Lienchiang County's links went into effect last night.

"We do not have a set timetable for when the suspension will be lifted," said Tsai, the nation's top China-policy planner. "The suspension will be lifted at a time we deem appropriate."

While the links suspension is in place in Lienchiang County, Tsai said that government agencies would heighten their monitoring of smuggling in both Lienchiang County and Kinmen.

The press conference, held to address the issue, was called after Tsai briefed the Cabinet on the conclusions reached at a meeting with government agencies such as the ministries of transportation and communications, defense, interior affairs and the Department of Health

The meeting was held after Tsai returned from an inspection tour to Kinmen yesterday.

By order of Premier Yu Shyi-kun, Tsai, along with officials from Department of Health, inspected Kinmen yesterday morning to see the area's SARS disinfection measures and whether there was any need to temporarily suspend the "small three links" to prevent SARS from spreading.

While inspecting Kinmen, Tsai offered advice on improving SARS-prevention measures and said that the government would help provide a charter service, on a case-by-case basis, for suspected SARS patients who wish to return to Taiwan.

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