A mainland official said on Wednesday that the central government would offer help to disaster-hit Taiwan compatriots and businessmen on the mainland.
"The Taiwan Affairs Office is currently looking for Taiwan enterprises suffering snow disasters and would provide biggest possible help to those affected," Yang Yi, spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, or Cabinet, told a regular news conference.
Tens of millions of people in central and south China's 14 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions are suffering the heaviest snow and sleet and the lowest temperatures in five decades.
The snow has greatly affected homebound people for the upcoming Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, with roads and railways cut and airports iced in.
Yang said the Chinese mainland and Taiwan would arrange 94 cross-Strait charter flights during the upcoming festival, weather permitting, the fifth such flight arrangement since 2003.
The flights will operate from Feb. 2 to Feb. 6 and from Feb. 11 to Feb. 15, according to the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC).
In previous years, 12 airline companies, six from each side of the Strait, offered flights during the festival period. The airports involved include Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Taipei and Kaohsiung, according to the CAAC.
This year's Spring Festival, the first day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar, falls on Feb. 7. It is the most important occasion for the Chinese, who traditionally had family reunions at this time.
About 4 million people from Taiwan visit the Chinese mainland annually and an increasing number of Taiwan residents stay on the other side of the Taiwan Strait for business and study. But no direct regular flight is available across the Taiwan Strait, a situation that has held for more than five decades. Normally, passengers must transfer at Hong Kong or Macao, costing more time and money.
Yang said the mainland would spare no effort in realizing direct regular flights across the Strait "as soon as possible".
He said many Taiwan businessmen on the mainland had expressed the hope that airline companies could make it convenient for them to return to Taiwan to cast their ballots, and various Taiwanese associations across the mainland had made requests with airlines. Meanwhile, Yang said the mainland government did not wish to be "involved in the election of Taiwan leaders" scheduled in March.
(Xinhua News Agency January 31, 2008)