More than 100 experts and scholars from the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and elsewhere held a second day of talks in Beijing yesterday at a seminar on cross-strait relations. Speaking of the creation of a Special Economic and Trade Zone proposed by Taiwanese officials, mainland academic Zhou Lihua said such a zone would lose its reason for existence if it was established with ulterior motives. Ms Zhou, of the Zhejiang Taiwan Research Association, warned the Taiwanese administration against 'using the special zone as a pretence to hide its real intentions of delaying and hindering the speeding up of the three direct links, and taking the road of separating the motherland'. The three links involve direct air, shipping, and postal connections. But Li Hua-hsia, vice-secretary of the Taipei-based Cross Straits Finance and Corporate Business Development Foundation, said the time for the three links was not yet right. 'The mainland is not yet ready for it and Taiwan is not yet ready for it,' he said, adding that Chinese ports already suffered delays of seven to 10 days in unloading ships and clearing freight through Customs. The rise in traffic the three links would bring to Chinese ports would lead to further congestion and the likelihood of Taiwanese shippers bribing mainland port officials to gain faster service. Taiwan, meanwhile, would need to beef up security and anti-smuggling controls at its ports, Mr Li said. Last year's seminar was called off because of the tension caused by Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui's visit to the United States in June. Several participants at this year's seminar said the resumption indicated a significant improvement in relations. Although government officials are not directly involved, participants expressed confidence the meeting would have an impact on policymakers. 'A lot of the people from both sides have backgrounds in government service and good contacts with their governments, so everyone knows that the views expressed here will quickly be passed up the line,' said Hong Kong participant Louis Leung Wing-on, a member of the Central and Western District Board.