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Fri, Feb 02, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Voyage to Xiamen okayed

STAFF REPORTER WITH AGENCIES

The government has approved a request by a group of businessmen to sail directly to China today from one of the outlying islands, a government official said yesterday.

The trip would be the first legal voyage to China by non-residents of Kinmen.

Since Jan. 1, Taiwan has allowed only residents of Kinmen and another outlying island chain, Matsu, to sail directly to China. People who live on Taiwan proper can't make the trip.

But the government is willing to make an exception today and allow a group of 13 Taiwanese businessmen to sail from Kinmen to the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen, said Yen Wan-ching (顏萬進), an official with the Straits Exchange Foundation.

Yen said the businessmen -- who work in China and have been attending a government-sponsored conference on Kinmen -- have yet to receive permission from China. But Chinese officials have reacted "positively" so far, he said.

Meanwhile, China is planning to send a boat on a historic trip to Kinmen next week, officials in the southeastern province of Fujian said yesterday.

The crossing, which has tentatively been scheduled for Tuesday, will be the first officially sanctioned trip by a Chinese boat to Taiwan-controlled territory in more than 50 years.

"We are shooting for a trip to take place on Feb. 6," said a staff member with the semi-official Kinmen Compatriot Federation in Xiamen. "We are trying to work out the formalities with the Taiwan side."

The boat is expected to carry about 90 to 100 passengers, most of them senior citizens who intend to visit relatives on the Taiwan-held island, he said.

Many of the visitors were born on Kinmen, and have been barred from visiting the island -- only a few kilometers from the mainland -- for decades because of politics.

China has dismissed Taiwan's opening of the "small three links" as inadequate, demanding full trade, transport and mail links.

Taiwanese leaders say that if the Kinmen voyages go smoothly, they will consider opening other links.

Only a few boats have made the voyage so far because of numerous Taiwanese restrictions.

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