Sun, Jan 05, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Chang pushes for more China flights

HIGH HOPES Even before the initial round of holiday charters have taken place, the KMT legislator says he wants to see Chinese airlines involved in the next round

By Lin Miao-Jung  /  STAFF REPORTER

A day after the first Chinese New Year Taipei-Shanghai round-trip charter flights received official approval, KMT lawmaker John Chang (章孝嚴), the prime mover behind the scheme, announced his intention to push for a follow-up program for this year's Mid-Autumn Festival or next year's Lunar New Year.

But, Chang said, next time it would be "necessary" for Chinese airlines to operate some of the charter services. He also said that the plan envisages no stops in Hong Kong or Macau and that the flights should also serve China's southern city of Guangzhou (廣州).

"We want to push for another charter flight service during the Mid-Autumn Festival or next year's Chinese New Year holidays. But this time, Chinese airline companies should be allowed to participate in the operation," said Chang at a news conference held yesterday.

Chang was speaking on behalf of the Chamber of Taiwan Businessmen in China, a foundation he established in 2001 to assist Taiwanese businessmen in China.

But chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), said that it is too early to discuss such a plan and stressed that for Chinese airlines to be allowed to provide some of the charter flights, official negotiations between Taiwan and China would be necessary.

Chang, who initiated the proposal for charter flights to bring China-based Taiwanese businessmen home this coming Lunar New Year, reminded reporters that Chinese officials had informed him that Chinese airlines desired to operate some of the flights.

But Chang added that, from his experience discussing the current charter flight proposal with Chinese officials, he believed that "if a further program of cross-strait charter services is to materialize, Chinese airlines' participation as operators of some of the services will be necessary."

The participation by Chinese airlines in anything other than ground services for the current program was ruled out when Taiwan insisted that such a step could not be taken without official negotiations between the two sides. China has refused to negotiate with Taiwan since former president Lee Teng-hui's 1999 remark that relations between Taiwan and China were "state to state" in nature.

In his preliminary plan, Chang called for the second program of charter flights to eliminate the stopovers in Hong Kong or Macau.

He also said that he wishes to include the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in the program.

"A lot of Taiwanese businessmen live and work in Guangzhou. There is indeed a need to include the city for their convenience," Chang said.

In response, Tsai said it was too early to talk about a second charter flight program. "Our only wish for the time being is to carry out the current plan smoothly. Then we will review the program for future reference," she said.

Tsai stressed that if Chinese carriers wanted to operate any flights, official cross-strait negotiations would be "unavoidable."

Tsai said China's quick decision to approve FAT's application to operate some of the flights for the coming Lunar New Year showed that both sides were facing current cross-strait problems "pragmatically."

Tsai added that she expected cross-strait relations to improve "to a certain degree."

Chang also said yesterday that President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) New Year's call for talks over direct cross-strait transport links augured well for the possibility of establishing such links.

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