First Ships from Taiwan Arrive in Xiamen

The first ships from Taiwan to the mainland in 51 years arrived at a port in Xiamen yesterday morning.

Two ships, loaded with almost 200 local government officials, tourists and reporters, came into the Heping Port at 11:50 am after a two-hour journey

The milestone voyage took place after a decision by the Taiwan authorities to open direct trade, shipping and postal links between the outlying Taiwanese islands of Jinmen and Matsu and the port cities of Xiamen and Fuzhou in Fujian Province, also dubbed the mini-three links, which formally began yesterday.

The opening is largely symbolic, as there has been traffic and other contact between the Taiwanese islands and Xiamen - which are within sight of each other - for years, although contact is banned under Taiwanese law.

Three hundred people went to the port to welcome the Taiwan delegation, most of whom have either relatives or friends in Taiwan. They consider the opening of the mini-three links as a positive beginning - but far from enough.

Tang Youpin, 67, set off at 5 am from the neighboring Zhangzhou to welcome the Taiwan group.

Born in Jinmen, he has been stranded on the mainland since 1949. He now has an 89-year-old aunt on the island, whom he has never seen.

"I am a Jinmen native, but I have never been permitted to go back home. It is a tragedy," he said. He attributed his misfortune to a ban by the Taiwan authorities on direct contact between Taiwan and the mainland, which he described as "inhuman and irrational."

The mainland insists that Taiwan opens direct trade, transport and postal links in a comprehensive way and has remained cautious about Taiwan's launching of the mini-three links.

An official with the Xiamen publicity department, who declined to be named, said the Taiwan authorities are using the mini-three links to drag their feet on the issue of reunification.

There was still a positive response from the mainland about the visit. At a welcome reception hosted by Xiamen city government, Mayor Zhu Yayan extended his welcome to the visit by the Taiwan delegation, led by Jinmen magistrate Chen Shui-tsai.

(China Daily 01/03/2001)

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