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ARATS chief hopes panda pair to reach Taiwan soon
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Chen Yunlin, chairman of the Chinese mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), said on Tuesday that he hoped the two giant pandas due to be sent to Taiwan would leave for the island soon.

Chen made the speech during his visit to a giant panda breeding base in Ya'an of western Sichuan Province, after he transferred on Monday 270 million yuan (39.4 million U.S. dollars) donated by the Taiwan public to the regions stricken by the May 12 Sichuan earthquake.

The panda pair, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan (together means reunion in Chinese) were transferred to the base on June 18 from the Wolong Nature Reserve which suffered great damage in the 8.0-Magnitude earthquake.

Experts at the Ya'an base said the 4-year-old pair have recovered from the shock of the earthquake.

"The Chinese mainland announced in May 2005 it would send two giant pandas to Taiwan in May 2005, but their departure has been suspended for more than three years," Chen said, adding that experts agreed that the panda pair should be sent to Taiwan within a year to make sure they could adjust to the island's environment.

"Kuomintang Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung also expressed his hope that the giant pandas could come to live in Taiwan soon in his May visit to the mainland," he said.

"I hope the two sides across the Strait can work together to send the two pandas to the Taiwan people as soon as possible," Chen said.

Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan were part of a campaign by the Taiwan Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council in 2005 to display cross-Strait peace.

They were named as a result of votes by cross-Strait compatriots and netizens at the Lunar New Year festival eve of 2006.

(Xinhua News Agency September 10, 2008)

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