First mainland group uses Taiwan mini-link
Lawrence Chung in Taipei
The first mainland tour groups to visit Taiwan via the so-called 'mini-link' arrived in Quemoy and Matsu yesterday.
Taking advantage of the opening of the mini-link for mainlanders to visit the main island of Taiwan, about 300 tourists in 10 groups arrived at the two former defence outposts for visits to Taiwan of up to nine days.
They included 134 tourists from Xiamen and 96 from Quanzhou , who took ferries to Quemoy, and 52 tourists from Fuzhou , who arrived in Matsu.
'I am happy to be among the first groups of tourists to make use of the mini-link to visit Taiwan,' said Chen Yuchen, 71, from Fuzhou, who travelled with her 76-year-old husband, Huang Futian, to Quemoy.
The visitors were welcomed by county government officials.
President Ma Ying-jeou announced on September 4 that mainland tourists could use the mini-link through Quemoy and Matsu to visit Taiwan proper two months after it had permitted up to 3,000 mainlanders to visit Taiwan per day directly.
The measure came after repeated demands from Quemoy and Matsu that mainland tourists be able to visit Taiwan via the mini-link, set up in 2001 for limited direct contact between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Previously, mainlanders were allowed to go to Quemoy and Matsu and no further for sightseeing trips.
The cost of such a visit is at least NT$4,000 (HK$967) cheaper than visiting Taiwan on weekend charter flights. Local tourism operators said the visitors were scheduled to stay in Quemoy and Matsu for one or two days before going on to Taiwan.
Also, Taiwan has been discussing ways for the mainland to send two pandas to the island without touching on sensitive sovereignty issues.
Methods include swapping the pandas with rare animal species from Taiwan and leasing the pandas for exhibition.
Mainland Affairs Council chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan confirmed yesterday that they were among the options for the island to receive the pandas without touching on the sovereignty issue.
Taiwan's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party has demanded that the pandas must be imported only through a state-to-state channel.