In light of the recent trip to China by some Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) officials, the government yesterday took measures to hold semi-official negotiations on the details of cross-strait charter flights for the upcoming Lunar New Year with Beijing, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said in a press release yesterday.
"Authorities on both sides of the Taiwan Strait understand that cross-strait charter flights will depend on negotiations between government-authorized representatives," the statement said, explicitly taking moves to hold China to semi-official negotiations for the first time since the government announced its willingness to see direct, round trip flights by both Taiwanese and Chinese airline carriers.
Both governments had previously given the green light to discussing the details of the charter flights in accordance with the recently dubbed "Hong Kong model." Under this model, business representatives from both Taiwan and China hold talks while the government is given a supervisory role.
The council's calls for semi-official negotiations comes just one day after Beijing's top cross-strait policymaker Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) director Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) extended an invitation to the Taipei Airlines Association to discuss charter flights for the holiday. The association was officially authorized by the government to conduct negotiations with Chinese authorities last month.
While the MAC has been tight-lipped regarding the charter flights, the statement issued yesterday seemed geared towards preventing the opposition party, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), from stealing the government's thunder.
The KMT sent a delegation to Beijing last week and on Monday held a press conference in Beijing announcing the breakthroughs they had attained while meeting with Chen. The delegation had not been officially authorized by the government to handle cross-strait charter flights.
While the statement states the MAC's gratitude to the KMT delegation, it stressed that talks had to be conducted by authorized representatives.
MAC Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (
"In order for sincerity and good will to translate into actual results, there needs to be semi-official talks. China knows that we've authorized the Taipei Airlines Association ... as a result, even if someone talks a big game, I think everyone knows whether it is meaningful or not," Chiu said without naming the KMT specifically.
The council also reiterated yesterday that it had long been ready and willing to cooperate on direct, reciprocal flights, and that it had already approved the establishing of new routes if necessary.
The KMT delegation on Monday said that at its proposal, China had indicated a willingness to forge air links between Taiwan and Beijing, Xiamen, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou.
The one-time success of cross-strait charter flights in February 2003 involved indirect flights between Taiwan and Shanghai only.
The charter flights have in recent years come under public scrutiny as a service to the half million taishang, or China-based Taiwanese businesspeople, who return home for the holidays, but the flights have taken on important political significance as both an indicator of the state of cross-strait ties and as a forerunner for long term direct passenger and cargo flights.