Taiwan Authorities Reject Direct Charter Flights
Beijing Wednesday criticized Taipei's rejection for a call for direct charter flights across the Taiwan Straits as a "negative'' and "irresponsible'' move.

"We regret that Taiwan authorities have made such an irresponsible decision to deliberately shun the opportunity for both sides of the Straits to realize direct links in the form of charter flights,'' said an unnamed official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

"It is certainly negative news for all people across the Taiwan Straits who are hoping for progress in establishing the three direct links (direct links of mail, air and shipping services, and trade) between Taiwan and the mainland,'' the source added.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council refused to comment on the Taipei move.

Li Jiaquan, a researcher with the Institute of Taiwan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Taipei move has again demonstrated that the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party administration led by Chen Shui-bian is still preoccupied with strong political ideology.

"Chen and his administration have been managing to delay the implementation of the three links because they never give consideration to the immediate interests of the Taiwanese people,'' Li said.

"They have made up the so-called mainland threat to the island's security in an attempt to find a disguise for their pro-independence conspiracy.''

The CAAC official made these comments after the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the island's decision-making body on cross-Straits policy, turned down a call from local "lawmakers'' for direct charter flights to the mainland, citing security considerations.

Opposition Kuomintang "legislator'' John Chang had led the campaign to set up direct charter flights as part of a push to lift a decades-old ban on the three direct links.

Chang has proposed a total of 120 charter flights between Taipei and Shanghai during the Spring Festival, the Chinese lunar new year period.

Hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese people living on the mainland -- most of them investors and their families -- return for the traditional family reunion during the holiday, which falls on February 1 next year.

Because of Taipei's half-century ban on direct transport links between Taiwan and the mainland, both cargo and passengers have to travel via a third location, usually Hong Kong or Macao, causing great inconvenience.

The MAC said in a statement that "direct chartered flights are almost the same as direct flights.''

"The problems raised by direct charter flights and direct flights are very similar. All the problems would need to be solved through negotiations,'' it said.

(China Daily November 14, 2002)