Taiwan expands travel links with China


Taipei : Taiwan expanded travel links with China Thursday to allow all its citizens to reach the mainland China via two offshore islands.

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Taiwanese will be able to travel via Kinmen and Matsu off China’s southeast coast, to cut the time and cost of going via Hong Kong, the Mainland Affairs Council said.

Taiwan banned direct travel to China since 1949, but in 2004 allowed Kinmen and Matsu residents to travel to China’s Fujian province and vice verse, and allowed Kinmen/Matsu-Fujian trade.

Taiwan also allowed investors to go to China and return home via Kinmen and Matsu.

Since then, 1.3 million Kinmen/Matsu residents and Taiwan investors have visited China by sailing from Kinmen/Matsu to China, while 148,788 Xianmen residents have visited two islands.

“This move is to prepare for the opening of Taiwan-China weekend charter flights, for the convenience of Taiwan and Chinese residents, and for the development of offshore islands,” Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan told a news conference.

Taiwan and China have been rivals since 1949, when the Chinese Nationalist Government lost the Chinese Civil War and fled to Taiwan to set up its government-in-exile.

Since then, Taiwan has banned sea, air and trade links with China for national security reasons.

In 1987, Taiwan eased travel and trade ban, but required that Taiwan residents and cargo must pass through a third point, usually Hong Kong, to go to China.

In 2004, Taiwan opened travel and trade between Kinmen/Matsu and China’s Fujian Province, in the form of border trade, to prepare for fully opening sea and air links with China.

Under the instruction of President Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan will open weekend charter flights with China in July to allow Chinese tour groups to visit Taiwan.

Ma, sworn in May 20, has vowed to fully open trade and other links with China to seek peace and to revitalize Taiwan’s economy.