Effective immediately, Taiwanese and foreign nationals holding valid travel papers will be allowed to enter China via the outlying islands of Kinmen or Matsu, the Executive Yuan announced yesterday.
Previously, only certain Taiwanese residents were allowed to visit China via the “small three links.” They had to be either Kinmen or Matsu residents for more than six months, civil servants working on the islands or relatives and spouses of Kinmen or Matsu residents working in Taiwan. Taiwanese nationals meeting certain other requirements were also allowed to use the links.
Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) told reporters after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting that the measure to expand the “small three links” with China was the realization of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) election promise to further relax cross-strait restrictions.
It was a provisional policy before full cross-strait direct transportation links become a reality, Lai said, adding that it was the wish of Kinmen and Matsu residents that their interests were protected and that opinions taken into account.
The ball is now in China’s court, she said, adding that Beijing might decide to let Chinese nationals outside of Fujian Province use the “small three links,” but she suspected they would be allowed to do so on a case by case basis.
Lai said the administration hoped to place the issue of increasing the number of Chinese nationals visiting via the “three small links” on the agenda at the next round of cross-strait negotiations between Taiwan’s quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait. Lai said both sides had agreed that it was an “urgent” issue to fully open the “small three links.”
As for the short and long-term development of Kinmen and Matsu, Lai said the Council for Economic Planning and Development would conduct an evaluation and formulate a plan within three months.
The “small three links” were launched on Jan. 1, 2001. As of the end of last month, over 1.3 million people have visited China via the route.
Meanwhile, as a complementary measure, the Department of Aviation and Navigation said yesterday that domestic airlines would increase the number of flights to Kinmen.
This month, three domestic carriers — Mandarin Airlines (華信航空), Uni Air (立榮航空) and TransAsia Airways (復興航空) — are scheduled to provide 391 regular flights from Taipei, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Tainan and Chiayi to Kinmen. They are now planning to raise that to 434 from next month.
The department said the airlines are prepared to add another 112 additional flights if demand grows.
The department is also preparing additional round-trip shipping services between Kinmen and Xiamen and between Matsu and Mawai.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHELLEY SHAN
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