Sat, Jul 05, 2003 - Page 3 News List

PFP legislators push for return of links

RESTORATION The threat of SARS has been reduced, so the government should allow offshore residents to once again travel back and forth to China, lawmakers say


Saying that the threat of SARS in China and Taiwan had been eased, opposition legislators yesterday urged the Mainland Affairs Council to lift its temporary ban on the "small three links."

The links -- allowing trade and transportation between Fujian Province and Taiwan's offshore territories of Lienchiang County and Kinmen -- were suspended at the height of the SARS outbreak in order to hinder the spread of the disease from China.

PFP legislative caucus whip Chiu Yi (邱毅) said yesterday that he agreed at the time with the council's decision to shut down the links temporarily as a preventive measure. However, now that the SARS situation in China and Taiwan is winding down, the links should be restored, he said.

"The council has already lifted its quarantine requirement for people traveling from China, so the links ought to be lifted as well," Chiu said at a press conference held jointly with PFP legislators Tsao Yuan-chang (曹原彰) and Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄).

Yesterday, the government fully lifted its "B category" quarantine requirement on travelers coming from China, Hong Kong and Macau -- allowing them to enter Taiwan without having to undergo 10 days of home quarantine.

Visitors flying to Taiwan from the aforementioned areas need only to sign a guarantee promising to report probable SARS cases and to help send suspected SARS patients to hospitals

Tsao noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) had already removed China from its list of SARS-affected areas. Therefore, he said, failing to lift the temporary ban on the "small three links" would be to deny China-based Taiwanese businesspeople and the residents of Kinmen and Lienchiang County their right to travel back and forth to China.

In response to the opposition legislators' call, council Vice Chairman Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) said yesterday that "the council has been keeping an eye on the development of the SARS situation and has been actively assessing when the "small three links" should be restored.

In fact, that was why as early as June 19 the government relaxed the restrictions and allowed cargo transportation links to partially restored, Chen said at the council's weekly press conference yesterday.

"However, it is regrettable that the other side of the Strait has not yet granted permission for any of its freighters to travel to either Kinmen or Lienchiang County," Chen said.

In related news, the council announced yesterday that plans to develop a "small-scale" trade zone in Kinmen County to accommodate imports from China have been shelved temporarily.

Officials from the council said the proposal to develop an "experimental zone for cross-strait small-scale trade" on Liehyu -- an isle located off western Kinmen -- have been put aside.

Instead, officials said, the council will continue to encourage more imports of Chinese agricultural products to Kinmen and Matsu, under a duty-free incentive that is aimed at gradually eliminating smuggling and illicit small-scale beach trade.

Council officials said that after holding discussions with Kinmen County Government authorities, the council decided to call a halt to the Liehyu experimental small-scale trade zone plan. The plan had been proposed by Liehyu Township chief Lin Chin-liang (林金量) in accordance with a resolution adopted by the "Mini Links Supervisory Committee" under the Executive Yuan in December 2001.

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