China's controversial flight route M503 takes off despite protests in Taiwan

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 March, 2015, 12:25am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 March, 2015, 8:18pm

A controversial flight route came into operation on Sunday despite protests in Taiwan, with the first flight heading to Hong Kong.

The first plane to fly the path, run by Dragonair, left Shanghai Pudong Airport at 7.40am and landed two hours later.

Some 33 planes are expected to take the route on a daily basis.

The route, known as M503 over the Taiwan Strait, is one of four new air routes on the southeast side of the mainland's coast aimed at easing air traffic over the Yangtze River and Pearl River delta areas.

The routes will take planes over the Taiwan Strait from Zhejiang province and the cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen in Fujian, which Taiwan said posed a threat to its air defence.

The M503 route was less than 8km from Taiwan's airspace over the strait, before Beijing agreed to move it 8 nautical miles westwards - an agreement reached after three rounds of talks with Taiwan's transport ministry.

Taiwanese demonstrators have blamed President Ma Ying-jeou for bowing to mainland pressure.

Yesterday, about thirty members of the radical anti-mainland party Taiwan Solidarity Union tried to push through police guarding a shrine Ma was visiting. They chanted "Ma Ying-jeou is betraying, humiliating [our] country" and tussled with police before throwing eggs and slippers at Ma's motorcade, but none hit.

On Saturday, 13 demonstrators were arrested for splashing red paint on the wall of the presidential residence.

Additional reporting by Nectar Gan