TAIWAN yesterday rejected Beijing demands to send back two men who hijacked a Chinese airliner to Taipei, insisting the matter be handled in accordance with its laws. Also in Taipei, a government minister accused the pilot of the China Southern Airlines' Boeing 757 of breaking a promise that he would not fly directly from Taipei airport to the mainland. When the aircraft took off six hours after being hijacked to Chiang Kai Shek International Airport, the pilot was ordered to return to Guangzhou via Hongkong because the Taipei government does not permit direct links with the mainland. Hongkong, however, had relayed a message to the plane to proceed directly to Guangzhou's Baiyun Airport. Despite the feeling that the agreement for the swift return of the jetliner and the 195 passengers had been betrayed, Taipei authorities said the hijacking would not affect talks between a visiting delegation of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation and its counterparts on cross-Strait matters. The talks open in Beijing today. The Taiwanese Justice Minister, Mr Ma Ying-jeou, said although both Beijing and Taipei were signatories to The Hague international convention, such a treaty could not be directly applied to the current situation between Taiwan and the mainland. ''It should be proper for our judicial authorities to handle the hijacking case under our legal system,'' he said. ''Hijacking is a crime that is denounced in any country and the international community, no matter how sublime your motive is. ''You cannot evade legal responsibility.'' But Taiwanese prosecutors yesterday had made no decision on whether to charge and try Hebei businessmen Huang Shugang, 29, and Liu Baocai, 23, for commandeering the aircraft with pistols soon after it took off from Shenzhen's new airport on Tuesday morning. If convicted in Taiwan, the men could be sentenced to death or face up to life in prison. Mr Ma said Taiwan had the right to charge them, but the government would not interfere with the prosecutors' decision. China's semi-official Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait has repeatedly demanded the repatriation of Huang and Liu. There was a suggestion the two hijackers should be repatriated in accordance with the Kinmen Agreement, signed by the Red Cross societies from Taiwan and China, for the exchange of criminals. But Mr Ma said serious crimes such as air piracy were not clearly specified in the Kinmen Agreement. The Taiwanese Minister of Transport and Communications, Mr Liu Chao-shiuan, said Taipei would lodge a ''serious protest'' with the mainland authorities over the pilot's decision not to abide by his instructions to fly via Hongkong airspace. ''The move has jeopardised mutual trust between the two sides built up over the years,'' Mr Liu told members of the Legislative Yuan. But he stressed the move by the pilot did not amount in the official sense to a direct flight between Taiwan and the mainland, which are still banned even though other contacts have been increasing. A deputy general manager of China Southern Airlines, Mr Li Zhongming, praised Taipei for its quick response to the hijacking. ''Taiwan's relevant departments acted in an extremely timely manner during the day's hijacking incident and paid adequate attention to it,'' the semi-official China News Service quoted Mr Li as saying.