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Sun, Feb 10, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Travelers mark historic voyage

HOMEWARD BOUND For the first time a group of China-based businesspeople went directly from Xiamen to Kinmen yesterday on their way home for the holidays

CNA , KINMEN

A group of Taiwanese businesspeople disembark from a ferry after traveling to Kinmen from Xiamen for this week's Lunar New Year holiday. Their trip also marked the very first government-approved direct transportation of people from China to Taiwan.

PHOTO: WU SHI-TING, TAIPEI TIMES

A group of China-based Taiwanese businesspeople and their relatives were ferried directly from the Fujian Province port city of Xiamen to the outlying island of Kinmen yesterday, on the first leg of their journeys back to Taiwan for the Lunar New Year holidays.

The voyage of the 181 Taiwan citizens aboard the Kinmen-based ferry Tai Wu marked the first government-approved direct transportation of people, rather than goods, from China to Taiwan, following the government's initiation of the "small three links" on Jan. 2.

The links allow for direct trade, postal and shipping operations between Taiwan's outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu and the mainland port cities of Xiamen and Fuzhou in Fujian Province.

Upon their arrival at Kinmen's Shuitou port, the Taiwanese passengers, most of them members of the Taiwan Investment and Business Association in Xiamen, were warmly greeted by Kinmen County Commissioner Lee Chu-feng (李柱峰) and Kinmen-based New Party Legislator Wu Cheng-dien (吳成典).

All the passengers said they were thrilled with the trip, not only because the voyage was the first of its kind, but also because it saved them a lot of time and money.

The direct Xiamen-Kinmen-Taiwan sea and air trip will save roughly NT$10,000 for each person per trip. In the past, a traveler had to spend about NT$16,000 for a one-way trip to Fujian Province from Taiwan via a "third place," namely Hong Kong or Macau.

Sailing from Xiamen to Kinmen takes about 90 minutes. And a flight from Kinmen to Taipei takes about 50 minutes.

Chen Kuan-ting (陳冠廷), an assistant director of the Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) -- Taiwan's top agency in charge of policies toward China -- and Liao Yun-yuan, director of the Business and Trade Department of the quasi-official intermediary organization of the Straits Exchange Foundation, traveled to Kinmen from Taiwan to witness the arrival of the group.

Kinmen County Commissioner Lee expressed the hope that the direct Xiamen-Kinmen-Taiwan trip formula, a "tentative arrangement" as labeled by the MAC, will turn out to be popular and successful and will eventually persuade the government to make it a fixed policy.

Huang Tieh-jung (黃鐵榮), chairman of the Taiwan Investment and Business Association in Xiamen, who was among the group, said now that both Taiwan and China are full members of the WTO, it is both sides' duty to further strengthen business and trade exchanges across the Taiwan Strait.

He added that he hopes that the Xiamen-Kinmen-Taiwan trip formula will become a fixed policy and that the Taiwan government will eventually turn the Xiamen-Kinmen passenger ferries into a regular service to make people exchanges between the two sides much more convenient and cost efficient.

The second group of its kind, which will include 115 Xiamen-based Taiwanese business people and their relatives, is scheduled to depart from Xiamen today for Kinmen, from where the group members are also expected to fly to Taiwan the same day for the Lunar New Year holidays.

The same group of travelers are scheduled to return to Fujian Province later in the month by taking similar ferries from Kinmen on Feb. 16, 17 and 24 to return to work in China after the holiday break.

Meanwhile, the Kinmen County government is planning to establish a school exclusively for children of China-based Taiwanese businesspeople to further serve the special group of people and their dependents, according to Lee.

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