Beijing Offers Goodwill Gesture to Taipei for Links

Beijing Friday made a major goodwill gesture to Taipei by slightly softening its stance on the precondition for establishing full trade, transport and communications links across the Taiwan Straits as soon as possible.

The positive new overture should push forward more direct contact between Taiwan and the mainland following the formal start of the "mini-three links" between the outlying Taiwanese islands of Kinmen and Matsu and the cities of Xiamen and Fuzhou in Fujian Province.

"As long as (the three links are) conducted as internal affairs within one country, we will take pragmatic steps to work with them," said He Shizhong, head of the Economic Department of the Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council, China's cabinet.

Beijing has always demanded explicit acceptance of the one-China principle from the Taiwan authorities before the big three direct links -- full-blown trade, transportation and postal service -- or talks can resume.

He said Beijing's three key principles on the direct cross-Straits links are that:

-- they should be operated as the domestic matters of one country instead of as state-to-state affairs;

-- they should be direct and bilateral;

-- they should be mutually beneficial and reciprocal.

He, a senior Chinese government official on Taiwan policy, also stressed that once both sides entered the World Trade Organization, Taiwan must be considered a separate customs territory of China.

"What we should emphasize is that our general principle has not changed... and will not change. The Taiwan authorities must embrace the one-China principle in developing cross-Straits ties," He said.

The encouraging move came after two separate meetings between mainland officials and members from two Taiwanese pro-reunification party delegations.

Consisting of lawmakers from the Kuomintang Party, New Party and business leaders, the two delegations arrived in Beijing on Thursday in a bid to pave the way to finally scrapping a decades-old ban on direct cross-Straits links.

As a positive gesture, mainland representatives of government bodies concerned with technical aspects attended the talks. They included officials from the trade, postal and transport ministries, as well as the cabinet body that handles Taiwan affairs.

Sun Yafu, vice-president of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, held a meeting with a Kuomintang Party delegation led by Party heavyweight Her Zyh-huei.

In a separate meeting, Li Yafei, secretary-general of the Chinese semi-official negotiating body, made up of government and non-government members, hosted the New Party delegation led by Fung Hu-hsiang.

All delegates agreed to push the links forward as soon as possible to follow the inevitable trend, Li told a briefing after the meetings.

"Both sides hoped, or demanded, that the Taiwan authorities dismantle existing obstructions to direct links," he said.

During the talks, both Her and Fung, from Taiwan's two main opposition parties, accused the Taiwan authorities of balking at lifting its 51-year-old ban on full direct links between the two sides.

The will and aspirations of Taiwan's mainstream are speeding up full direct cross-Straits links to benefit the whole Chinese nation, they said.

Her vowed to take legislative measures to intensify pressure on Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian to act on the issue as the Kuomintang holds a majority in "Parliament".

Vice-premier Qian Qichen met the two delegations from Taiwan Friday. It is time for the Taiwan authorities to abandon its policy of hindering the "three direct links", said Qian.

(Xinhua 01/06/2000)

In This Series

Common Understanding on "Three Direct Links" Welcome

Vice-Premier Meets Taiwan Delegations

Push Direct Straits Links

Chen Shui-tsai: Wider Links with the Mainland

First Ships from Taiwan Arrive in Xiamen

New Rules on Cross-Straits Trade

Actual Steps Called to Improve Cross-Straits Relations



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