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Taiwan residents can ferry to China

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwanese people are now able to visit China via Kinmen and Matsu as of yesterday, after the Cabinet issued an executive order to lift restrictions on ferry services from the offshore islands to Fujian on the Chinese mainland.

No statistics on the new travel routes were immediately available, however.

Lai Shin-yuan, chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Council, said that anyone in Taiwan may fly to Kinmen or Matsu to hop on a ferry to go to Amoy or Xiamen and Fuzhou, the provincial capital of Fujian, and onward to other parts of China.

All that residents in Taiwan need are their travel documents to use the newly opened time-saving routes.

Previously, only residents of Kinmen and Matsu and China-based Taiwan businessmen were allowed to board ferries, the quickest of which takes a mere 20 minutes to cover the distance. Trips on the Kinmen-Amoy ferry route ballooned to 341,152 entries and exits in 2006, twelve times the 21,377 when the service was first started in 2001.

The increasingly popular service induced the MAC, Taiwan’s China policy decision-making Cabinet agency, to allow all the people on the island to travel to the Chinese mainland through Kinmen and Matsu.

The Cabinet decision follows the landmark meeting in Beijing between the Straits Exchange Foundation and its Chinese counterpart Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait on June 11-14.

Documents were signed at the meeting to get direct charter flights across the strait on weekends, which will begin July 4 will also let Chinese tourists visit Taiwan at the same time.

Such flights, however, are still more time-consuming and costlier than the flight-ferry service between the offshore islands and Fujian.

The direct flights still have to detour through Hong Kong air space.

At least three airline companies in Taipei are adding flights for Kinmen to carry an increasing number of passengers from Taiwan to the offshore island.

UNI Airways Corporation is planning to increase Taipei-Kinmen flights by one or two a week when the summer vacation starts. There will be altogether 24 weekly flights.

Trans Asia Airways will add one flight a week starting tomorrow. There will be six Taipei-Kinmen weekly flights, a spokesman said.

Mandarin Airlines will also increase Taipei-Kinmen flights.

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 Taiwan residents can ferry to China 
Taiwan residents planning to visit China show passports at Kinmen. They were the first group of tourists who flew to Kinmen to hop on a ferry to cross to Amoy or Xiamen after the Cabinet allowed residents in Taiwan to visit China via Kinmen or Matsu yesterday.(CNA)

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