China-based Taiwanese businesspeople “understood” the rationale behind possible cancelations of additional flights during the Lunar New Year holiday in response to Beijing’s unilateral activation of four aviation routes over the Taiwan Strait, the semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) said yesterday.
The foundation said in a statement that it on Thursday contacted associations of China-based Taiwanese businesspeople in eight points of departure, including Shanghai, Nanjing and Fuzhou, who could be affected by the policy to gauge their needs and possible concerns.
The foundation told the associations’ leaders that the approval of additional flights has been stalled due to concerns over aviation safety caused by Beijing on Jan. 4 disregarding a 2015 cross-strait agreement and activating the northbound M503 route and extending routes W121, W122 and W123.
“During our communications, the foundation repeatedly stressed the significance of ‘safety first.’ We emphasized that while the utmost effort will be made to satisfy people’s needs and expectations to come home for the holiday, our more important consideration is to ensure their safe return,” the foundation said.
The association directors all expressed understanding of the government’s stance, it said.
“They also suggested that technical negotiations should be conducted over aviation safety as soon as possible by governments of both sides to fundamentally resolve the issue,” it added.
The foundation’s statement came days after the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) on Thursday announced that it would hold off on giving the green light to applications for 106 additional flights by China Eastern Airlines Corp (中國東方航空) and 70 by XiamenAir (廈門航空) during the holiday. It is in response to Beijing’s disregard for Taipei’s calls to return to the negotiating table following the launch of the routes.
It is expected to affect 50,000 people seeking to return home for the holiday traditionally celebrated with family.
There have been reports of complaints from Taiwanese businesspeople in China.
Meanwhile, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday said in a statement that it has encouraged other Chinese airlines to apply for additional flights for the holiday.
“China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Air have turned a deaf ear to the CAA’s advice and insisted on using the unsafe aviation routes... That is why we need to cautiously evaluate their application for additional flights,” the council said.
It said that the northbound M503 route is too close to the Taipei flight information region, while the W123 and W122 routes are close to air routes W6 and W8, which are used by Taiwanese flights to carry an estimated 2.6 million passengers each year to Kinmen and Matsu.
“We urge Beijing to refrain from shunning aviation safety issues, setting up political hurdles to cross-strait technical negotiations, blaming us for its unreasonable and unilateral actions and holding Taiwanese businesspeople hostage,” the council said.
It is the shared responsibility of the governments on both sides to ensure the safe return of China-based Taiwanese businesspeople, it added.
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