Taiwan to let mainlanders visit island via mini-links

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 September, 2008, 12:00am

Taiwan will allow mainlanders to visit the island proper through Quemoy and Matsu as soon as next month in yet another measure to liberalise cross-strait exchanges.

'If everything goes smoothly, Taiwan will be ready for mainlanders to visit through the mini-link channel as soon as the beginning of next month,' Mainland Affairs Council chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan said.

The measure is part of a programme by Ma Ying-jeou's government to expand the so-called three mini-links of limited direct trade, transport and communications between Taiwan's two former defensive outposts of Quemoy and Matsu, and the mainland coastal cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen .

Except for these areas, Taiwan still bars direct links across the Taiwan Strait, although the Ma government has backed full liberalisation of links since it took office in May.

As head of the island's mainland policy planning body, Ms Lai said multiple visas would also be granted to mainland tourists for visits to Quemoy and Matsu, but visitors using such visas could only stay in the two islands and not visit Taiwan proper.

To ensure full quarantine and health controls on the two islets, the government would legalise the underground trade on Quemoy and Matsu, she added.

Due to their proximity to Xiamen and Fuzhou, island residents have for years traded illegally with the mainland, mostly in farm and fishery products, raising health concerns.

Taiwan would also allow another islet - Penghu - to forge a 'mini-direct link' with the mainland before the end of the year, said Ms Lai. Taiwan's cabinet was expected to approve the measures tomorrow.