The government would consider expanding the "small three links" that connect Taiwan's outlying islands with China in a pragmatic way to facilitate transportation between two sides of the Taiwan Strait, Premier Su Tseng-chang (
Su made the remarks yesterday during his inspection tour of Kinmen, an outlying island located near Xiamen City in China's Fujian Province.
He was accompanied by Kinmen County Commissioner Lee Chu-feng (
"Quite a few experiences have been accumulated over the past five years. The policy relating to the `small three links' should be adjusted pragmatically on the premise that national security will not be affected as a result," Su said in reply.
The "small three links" was an experiment launched on Jan. 2, 2001, to legalize direct transport, commercial activity and postal exchange between Taiwan's outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu and the southern Chinese port cities of Xiamen and Fuzhou.
The "small three links" program initially applied only to people who have been registered as living in Kinmen or Matsu for at least six months, while their dependents and close relatives were only allowed to enter China when traveling with tour groups.
Under the program, Taiwanese businesspeople with operations in China, veterans who were born in Fujian Province or are of Fujian ancestry, and Fujian residents married to Taiwanese are also allowed to cross over freely.
The government expanded the program in May, allowing people from Kinmen and Matsu who now reside in Taiwan, plus their spouses, lineal relatives, and second-degree consanguineous relatives and their spouses, along with their underaged children to travel freely from the two islands to China without needing to join a travel group.
But Lee said that the expansion failed to meet Kinmen's needs, adding that the restrictions hinder the island's economic development.
"We call on the central government to lift the restrictions and let the Kinmen government dominate the `small three links' program," Lee said.
Su said that the role of Kinmen has changed -- from the battlefront defending Taiwan in the past to the front line of contact with China now.
"Since personal travel has replaced firepower, the policy should be adjusted in accordance with the situation," he said.
The premier also visited the headquarters of the Coast Guard operations in Kinmen, where he listened to a briefing on law enforcement efforts around the coastal areas of Kinmen.
Su exhorted the Kinmen Coast Guard to do their best to safeguard Taiwan's frontline as well as borderline, particularly during the festive season when there tend to be more people crossing the strait, as well as greater smuggling and trafficking activity.
Additional reporting by CNA