Taiwan urged to agree to festival flights
Beijing's latest push for direct charter flights across the Taiwan Straits has raised high hopes for immediate talks with Taipei in time for the upcoming travel season.
He urged Taipei to take concrete measures to create conditions for the direct charter flights to take off so as to benefit compatriots on both sides of the Straits, especially Taiwanese business people on the mainland.
In response, Taiwan's "mainland affairs council" promptly agreed to authorize a private group to discuss the details with related mainland bodies on the issue.
The positive developments are believed to be favourable to the direct and two-way charter flights during the 2005 Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on February 9.
During Spring Festival in 2003, six Taiwanese airlines operated 16 charter flights to and from the mainland for the first time since 1949.
The landmark programme, however, required all charter planes to transit through a third place such as Hong Kong and Macao and completely excluded mainland airlines.
It was finally grounded in the 2004 Spring Festival because Taipei again refused the participation of mainland airlines and insisted on a stopover for all charter flights.
Pu yesterday stressed flight arrangements for this year should be direct to and from the island and be operated by airlines from both sides.
"Non-government industrial associations and airlines across the Straits can engage in direct talks to reach a consensus and make appropriate arrangements," he said.
The senior official also proposed that mainland destinations for the charter flight plan may expand to Beijing, Guangzhou and Xiamen. In 2003, charter flights were run between only Taipei, Kaohsiung and Shanghai.
With only five weeks to go before Spring Festival, Pu highlighted the importance of working out technical and business issues concerning charter flights between airlines across the Straits.
"We hope the Taiwan authorities will consider the actual needs and well-being of Taiwanese business people on the mainland, stop putting up hurdles, honour their words and take concrete measures to facilitate charter flights," he said.
Taipei has been demanding government talks across the Straits to pave the way to allow mainland airlines to operate charter flights, but Beijing proposes non-government negotiations should solve the matter.
The island has banned direct air and shipping links with the mainland for more than five decades, causing great inconvenience to travels of mainland-based Taiwanese business people.
Hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese businessmen and their families live and work on the mainland and about 300,000 of them are estimated to return to the island for family reunions every Spring Festival.
Late on Sunday, a spokesman from the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council also vowed to "work hard to promote the launching of charter flights across the Straits."
He said the mainland has noticed that some "lawmakers" and airline executives in Taiwan have expressed their willingness to come to the mainland for talks on charter flights.
"We welcome them to come and are willing to exchange views with them," the spokesman said.
Taiwanese media earlier reported that John Chang, a Kuomintang "lawmaker" who initiated the cross-Straits charter flight programme, plans to visit Beijing this week for talks about the issue.