Wed, Apr 26, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Premier expands small three links

CROSS-STRAIT EXCHANGE Su Tseng-chang said restrictions on travel to China by residents of Taiwan's outlying islands would be eased, and added another sea route

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday announced that the government was tweaking its cross-strait policy with regard to exchanges between China and Matsu and Kinmen.

Su had planned to make a celebratory announcement of the policy adjustment from Kinmen, but was forced to cancel his symbolic speech there when bad weather left him stranded at Taipei's Songshan Airport.

The government allows postal, cargo and personal transport via sea links between Kinmen and Xiamen, as well as Matsu and Fuzhou under the "small three links." Regulations restrict the exchanges to residents of Kinmen and Matsu, traveling in a group with a minimum of 10 people.

However, Su announced that starting next Monday, the government will suspend the minimum group requirement -- permitting individuals to travel alone -- and will add a new shipping route between Kinmen and Quanzhou on June 1.

"This idea came from Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] Legislator Tsao Erh-chang (曹爾忠) when he was asking me to do so on the legislative floor on March 24," Su said. "After we discussed this idea with the president, the National Security Council and the Mainland Affairs Council, the president made the decision."

In addition, people who are registered residents of Kinmen or Matsu for at least six months will also be allowed to use the small three links to travel to and from China accompanied by dependents and relatives who do not live on the islands.

Taiwanese businesspeople with operations in China, veterans who were born in Fujian Province or who have Fujianese ancestry and Fujian residents married to Taiwanese may also use the small three links.

The small three links were implemented on Jan. 1, 2001. In the first year, approximately 25,000 people traveled using the links. That number has climbed steadily, and last year 555,000 travelers had taken advantage of the links to travel to China.

Su also extended an invitation to the Chinese government to participate in search-and-rescue drills in the area.

Su said the two governments should be able to cooperate more effectively during such operations to ensure the safety of passengers who travel between Taiwan and China by sea.

"If they [Chinese rescuers] and we are familiar with the drills, we will be able to help whoever needs help at the first instance, and could save a lot of lives should an accident take place," Su said.

"We believe that the relationship between Taiwan and China should be to help each other instead of fight each other," he said. "I must say, these new decisions were the results of our brainstorming instead of impromptu statements."

Su said that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) had participated in and approved the policy shift, perhaps in response to recent speculation that Chen and Su had had a falling out.

The premier was planning to lead a group of 45 reporters to land on Kinmen and make his announcements there. However, the continuous heavy rain forced the air force to cancel the flight. Su then organized a press conference at the Songshan air base.

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