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Sat, Mar 25, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Cabinet may reject `links' bill

RECONSIDERING Despite campaign promises that he would open direct links, Premier Vincent Siew said they may need to be reviewed as a possible security threat

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lawmakers yesterday strongly protested a possible move by the Executive Yuan to reject a bill that lifts a ban on the so-called "small three links."

The Offshore Islands Development Act, passed by the legislature on Tuesday, allows Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu to open direct trade, transport and communications links with China.

The bill stipulates that the government can establish the links on a trial basis before the rest of Taiwan is fully opened up.

However, Premier Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) said on Thursday that the lifting of the ban may threaten Taiwan's security, and that the Cabinet needs to discuss whether the bill should be returned to the Legislative Yuan for a second review.

Siew's remarks immediately triggered strong reaction from legislators, especially those elected from Kinmen and Matsu who have worked for years to have the bill passed.

Residents of outlying islands have long awaited the passing of the bill, hoping the links will boost their local economy.

"The government should not turn a blind eye to [the populations of the outlying islands]," said KMT legislator Chao Erh-chung (曹爾忠) a representative from Matsu.

Chao added that all three of the leading presidential candidates had promised to remove the ban on the three links -- communication, transportation and shipping.

KMT candidate Lien Chan (連戰) and Vincent Siew had promised that the "small three links" would be the first step toward fully opening links between Taiwan and China.

"This promise should not be affected just because they were defeated in the presidential race," Chao said.

New Party legislator Lee Chu-feng (李炷烽), a Kinmen legislator, urged the government to face up to the reality that the small three links have actually long existed in effect.

"The soldiers in Kinmen dare not open fire. They have to talk nicely to the Chinese fishermen [who come into Taiwan's waters] to ask them to go back," Lee said.

"As the government cannot do anything about these Chinese people, it has tried to restrict us from keeping contact with them," Lee added.

Rather than keeping the ban, the government should lift it to better regulate immigration and show a friendly gesture to improve cross-strait relations, he said.

Lee threatened to mobilize the residents from the offshore islands to stage a demonstration in Taipei if the bill is rejected.

In response, Lin Chong-pin (林中斌), vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, admitted that the Cabinet had not thoroughly considered the bill when it was submitted for review in the legislature.

Lin said the Cabinet will conduct a detailed evaluation and make a decision next Thursday on how to handle the bill.

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