Penghu seeks greater cross-strait role

The China Post staff

Penghu County officials yesterday urged the government to take action to make the offshore county a midway transit point for people and cargoes moving across the Taiwan Strait. Penghu County Magistrate Lai Feng-wei said that the direct cross-strait homecoming pilgrimage of the county’s Matsu statue back to mainland China yesterday should become the standard means of interchange between Taiwan and mainland China. Lai led a contingent of over 200 people for the first direct religious journey across the Taiwan Strait in more than five decades with formal government approval.

They left Makung Harbor for Chuanzhou City in Fujian Province in southeast China at 1000 a.m. with close to 1,000 people seeing them off. The delegates were met with a warm welcome from people in Chuanzhou in the afternoon. In order to play down the political factors in the religious activity, the liner carrying the Matsu statue and pilgrims lowered the flag of the Republic of China as it crossed the central line of the Taiwan Strait. The statue of Matsu, Goddess of the Sea, in Penghu’s Tien Ho Kung was brought by fishermen from the temple bearing the same name in Chuanzhou over 400 years ago. People in Taiwan and offshore islands widely believe that Matsu will protect them and give them safe journeys on the sea. Tien Ho Kung in Penghu is the oldest Matsu temple in Taiwan area and Tien Ho Kung in Chuanzhou is the largest Matsu temple in the world.

Lai said the a large number of ancestors of residents in Penghu came from Chuanzhou, which has long been a major commercial city. As many as three-quarters of the people of Taiwan worship Matsu. The latest count shows that there are around 800 Matsu temples in Taiwan and surrounding islands.

Lai said business links between Penghu and Chuanzhou started centuries ago. The interchange was suspended 52 years ago due to the civil war between the two governments in Taipei and Beijing.

The revival of the direct religious journey marks a major development in the cross-strait relationships and a goodwill gesture from both sides, Lai said. He expressed hope that government will speed up the process of establishing three direct links in trade, transport and postal services between Taiwan and the mainland

Lai also urged the government to make Penghu the midpoint when the three direct links are set in motion.