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Sat, Feb 03, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Businessmen cross Strait to Xiamen

CROSS-STRAIT RELATIONS A group of Taiwanese industrialists became the first non-residents of Kinmen to legally sail to Xiamen, in a visit the Chinese side was rather more enthusiastic about

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER WITH WIRES

A group of Taiwanese businessmen leaves for the Chinese port city of Xiamen yesterday from Kinmen's Liaoluo harbor. They were the first non-residents of Kinmen to legally sail across the Strait for more than 51 years.

PHOTO: WU CHENG-TING, TAIPEI TIMES

Ten Taiwanese businessmen, residents of Taiwan proper, yesterday afternoon sailed direct from Kinmen to Xiamen, on China's east coast, the first time an exception had been made to the regulation that direct cross-strait trips may only be made by residents of Kinmen under the provisions of the "small three links" (小三通) policy.

"The voyage was approved as a special case. The purpose is to enable Taiwanese businessmen to experience the effects of the policy for themselves. If this trial run works, the government will consider further relaxing the policy (通案處理)," Mainland Affairs Council (MAC, 陸委會) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday morning after a Chinese New Year gathering of over 100 senior executives of Taiwanese trade associations in Kinmen.

Brushing aside concerns about whether the government would lift the restriction on cross-strait passenger transit via Kinmen, Tsai said that she hoped the small three links policy would mark an end to cross-strait confrontation and a new beginning for peaceful co-existence and co-prosperity.

Deputy Secretary-General of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF, 海基會) Yen Wan-chin (顏萬進), however, told the Taipei Times that the possibility of lifting the ban on cross-strait passenger transit via Kinmen and Matsu was expected to be evaluated in the light of yesterday's trip.

"If the interaction between both sides of the Strait is benign, [the government] is likely to modify the restrictions," Yen said, adding that he believed that all Taiwanese residents should be able to enter China via the outlying island groups of Kinmen and Matsu.

Under the small three links policy, however, only Kinmen and Matsu residents whose households have been registered in Kinmen or Matsu for over six months are allowed to apply for permits to enter China from Kinmen.

At yesterday's Chinese New Year gathering, New Party lawmaker Lee Chu-feng (李柱峰), therefore, protested that the MAC's approval yesterday set a bad example of allowing only "rich and powerful" people to enter Xiamen from Kinmen. He said that over 7,000 Kinmen residents were still awaiting approval for their applications to enter Xiamen.

Such cross-strait trips, however, require approval from the governments of both sides. The Chinese authorities seem to be more welcoming of Taiwanese businessmen than of private Taiwanese citizens.

"It should be easier for Taiwanese businessmen [than for private citizens] to get approval [from China] to enter Xiamen," director of Xiamen city government Yang Lipo (楊歷波) told the Taipei Times, refusing to comment on what the situation would be if Taiwan lifts the ban on cross-strait passenger transit via Kinmen.

The businessmen, whose voyage was approved by both Taiwan's MAC and Fujian Province's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO), arrived in Xiamen at around 3pm yesterday. Xiamen's TAO and its city government held a dinner banquet to welcome the businessmen, who included Huang Tieh-jung (黃鐵榮) and Chen Tien-fu (陳添福) who have investments in China.

Vice-chairman of the SEF, Shi Hwei-yow (許惠祐), yesterday expressed his optimism in the light of this most recent development in cross-strait relations.

"The success of the voyage shows that [cross-strait] links can be established even without conducting negotiations beforehand, although this case is exceptional," Shi said, adding that he believed cross-straits talks were still needed to consolidate the policy.

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