The China Post staff
The Control Yuan has decided to push for expanding the direct “mini three links” with China via two frontline islands for the benefit of more people in Taiwan. Lee Shen-yi and Chao Jung-yao, two members of the Control Yuan, will take the action after they personally visited China’s Fujian Province through the experimental direct “mini three links” last week. They pointed out several drawbacks in the “mini three links” that allow direct trade, mail and shipping links between the outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu on Taiwan’s side and mainland China’s Xiamen and Mawei ports in Fujian Province.
The two flew from Taipei airport to Kinmen and then took a ferryboat to Xiamen. They returned through Matsu after spending several days in major cities in Fujian to gather opinions from Taiwan businessmen working there. They found that the current flights are not enough to meet the huge demand, since about 300,000 people in Taiwan are expected to use the mini links for travel across the Taiwan Strait this year. There is a dire need for launching flights between the two islands with Taiwan airports in Taichung and Chiayi since many Taiwan investors in China set up their homes and companies in central and southern parts of the island.
The mini channel, which can save a passenger NT$10,000 in air tickets and at least three hours in traveling time than going through Hong Kong, should not be limited only to residents of the two frontline islands and people working for firms that have registered with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, they said.
Lee and Chao said there are still a large number of “unqualified” passengers from Taiwan who managed to make use of the shortcut with the aid of underground travel agencies and ferryboats. The current ban on direct cargo shipping also spawned rampant smuggling activities.
If the government cannot rule out the smuggling, it had better to open the doors to all people holding the Republic of China passports and cargoes to place them under formal administrative process, they said. Coupled with streamlined customs clearance process, they said, people and companies would prefer to use the formal channel rather than taking risks with smuggling, which creates the loopholes in the crucial quarantine operations to stem spread of deadly epidemic viruses involving the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or other diseases from China. They said the government should consider making Kinmen a transit point for vital industrial parts and components to help beef up Taiwanese investors’ competitiveness rather than forcing firms to go through Hong Kong with high costs and more delays. It is long overdue for the direct “mini three links,” which have been under experimentation by the government for years, to become a formal and full-fledged transport channel to cater to the public’s needs, they stressed. Lee and Chao said they will hold meetings soon with officials of the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, and the Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) for practical improvements in the mini links services. The Control Yuan is the nation’s top watchdog supervising the operations of government agencies and employees.