Thu, Jan 27, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Beijing fumes over direct flight snub

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA AND AFP

Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) said yesterday that despite the imminent launch of non-stop, cross-strait charter flights, the situation across the Taiwan Strait remains "grim."

"The Lunar New Year charter flights are to fully show consideration for the interests of Taiwan compatriots, and to make their return home convenient, safe and comfortable," TAO spokesman Li Weiyi (李維一) said.

"In no way does it mean that cross-strait negotiations have resumed," Li said.

He called on Taiwan to accept the "one China" policy, and as usual accused President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) of "fomenting" independence activities.

The Mainland Affairs Council, however, countered with a statement last night that the agreement to operate cross-strait flights this year indicated that Taiwan and China were capable of resolving difficulties through negotiation.

It said that the flights were a result of negotiations that had put aside disagreements and political preconditions, stressing that the talks had been conducted by business representatives under government guidance.

The council said that it hoped cross-strait flights would be a springboard for the resumption of negotiations and normalizations in the future.

Li also took issue with the government's decision to allow only bona fide Taiwanese businesspeople living in China, known as taishang, to board the cross-strait chartered flights, saying that this amounted to a job half done.

"Since chartered flights are intended as a convenience for Taiwanese compatriots, a good deed should be done thoroughly," Li said during a press conference yesterday.

The issue of whether Taiwanese students studying in China can board chartered flights being offered over the Lunar New Year has received a disproportionate amount of attention, as the Ministry of Education says that there are so few Taiwanese studying independently in China that it does not bother to keep statistics.

Li, however, said that he hoped that all those who wanted to travel between Taiwan and China over the holiday could board the chartered flights.

Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) was however unwilling to respond to Li's remarks, saying it was unnecessary that the matter be brought up for discussion yet again.

"What business is this of theirs?" Chiu asked, indicating that he was unwilling to comment on the matter again.

"We already gave our stance on this issue last week," Chiu said, sticking to the council's decision to allow only Taiwanese businesspeople in China, or taishang, on the flights.

The MAC had previously stated that its policy was to push for progress one step at a time. The press statement had said that the council did not want to hear any dissenting opinions on the matter as it would be a hindrance to the hard-earned agreement.

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