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Fujian Gov't Works Harder for Links with Taiwan

The coastal province of Fujian has been working hard for an early realization of the Three Direct Exchanges (exchanges of mail service, trade, air and shipping services across the Taiwan Straits), a top provincial Taiwan affairs official said.

While speeding up local economic development, Fujian Province has been giving top priority to the construction of infrastructure, including communications, telecommunications and energy supply facilities, for a full opening up of cross-Straits trade, communications and postal links, said Zhang Guangmin, vice-director of the Fujian Provincial Taiwan Affairs Office.

In an interview with China Daily, Zhang said Fujian, as the closest neighbour to Taiwan, would not shirk any of its responsibilities in promoting the early establishment of full direct links between the Chinese mainland and the island province.

The comments came despite the ongoing implementation of the so-called "mini-three links'' programme, which was put into place by the Taiwan authorities on January 1 this year.

The mini-three links plan allows for only a partial opening-up of direct commercial, shipping and communications links between the outlying Taiwanese islands of Jinmen and Mazu and the port cities of Xiamen and Fuzhou on the mainland.

Taiwan has imposed a ban on direct cross-Straits links for decades.

However, under the mini plan, only Taiwanese vessels can ferry passengers and goods between these islands and the mainland ports, while mainland ships remain barred from docking at Jinmen and Mazu.

Such a move falls short of "real and full'' links and is "an utterly inadequate measure,'' said He Shizhong, director of the Economic Department of the Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council.

He told a press conference on March 16 that the "mini-three links'' has failed to meet the public demand for rapidly growing exchanges on both sides of the Taiwan Straits.

He said the scheme only serves as a "decriminalization move'' by the Taiwan authorities, as shipping and small-scale trade between outlying islands of Taiwan and the mainland used to be seen as smuggling by Taipei.

In preparation for the full implementation of the three direct links, Fujian focused on the development of its major ports of Fuzhou, Xiamen and Meizhouwan during the Ninth Five-Year Plan period (1996-2000), according to Zhang.

The province currently boasts 35 docks that could take in Taiwanese ships.

Fujian has also been expanding its railway and road networks to connect the province to the rest of the mainland, the official said.

In the fields of postal and telecommunications services, ground satellite stations, which were built in Fuzhou and Xiamen in 1995, could be used for direct telecommunications links with Taiwan.

Zhang said Fujian has completed a preliminary evaluation for the laying of an undersea cable between the province and Jinmen and Mazu of Taiwan.

"Fujian is capable of launching direct postal and telecommunications services with Taiwan at any time, given the present facilities,'' Zhang said.

The official added the operation of some telecommunications apparatus in Jinmen, including that for mobile phone services, all depended on facilities in Xiamen.

From April 1997 to the end of last year, a total of 1.19 million containers were shipped between Fuzhou and Xiamen and Taiwan after the two cities were designated as the pilot ports for direct cross-Straits shipping by the ministries of communications and foreign trade and economic co-operation in August 1996.

(China Daily 03/27/2001)

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