Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (
Ma made the proposal late Thursday night during an interview with the Chinese-language United Daily News, saying that his party would take the initiative in amending the Statute Governing the Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (
But he changed his tune yesterday, and denied coming up with the proposal.
"I did not say the KMT will take the initiative, but we will push for the amendment, and the reason I brought up the issue was because of some suggestions from experts," he said yesterday morning.
Ma later repeated that the proposal was merely one option for improving the country's economy, and criticized the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for ignoring public opinion.
"Most people support direct air links, especially the business sector," he said yesterday afternoon at Taipei City Hall. "But the government just can't figure out its policy priorities, and it pushes for constitutional re-engineering when what people want is a better economy."
While stressing that there are legal and safety concerns surrounding direct air links and that referendums should never be used as a tool for shifting government policies, Ma said that a referendum could be a way to reflect public opinion when the government fails to respond to decisions made in the legislature.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (
Responding to Ma's pressure on the government to implement cross-strait direct links, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairman Joseph Wu (
Wu said that Ma should urge China, which he said has been refusing to talk with the government on the matter, to enter negotiations with Taiwan.
"Not pushing China to talk to Taiwan, but only exerting pressure on the government, is putting the cart before the horse," Wu said at a MAC press conference yesterday.
Wu said that the government's stated policy was to implement cross-strait direct links, a fact proven by the government's white paper on cross-strait direct links released on Aug. 15, 2003.
Wu said the government welcomed the mechanism of referendums to settle any controversial issues within the nation, including the issue of direct links.
Wu, however, said the obstacles to implementing direct links were on the Chinese side, not on Taiwan's side.
The main issue is negotiation of aviation rights, as there are no direct routes between Taiwan and China, Wu said.
"How can the new routes be decided without bilateral negotiations?" Wu said.
Meanwhile, the KMT caucus yesterday said direct links between Taiwan and China must be implemented as soon as possible.
"The interruption across the Taiwan Strait has slowed down the growth of Taiwan's economy. The KMT will seek public support directly to promote direct links between Taiwan and China," said KMT Legislator Tseng Yung-chuan (
KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said the latest statistics show that there were some 3.5 million frequent travelers between Taiwan and China every year.