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China Renews Call for Direct Flights from Taiwan - 2002-11-27

China is renewing its call for direct charter flights from Taiwan to the mainland and ridicules Taiwan's insistence that the planes fly hundreds of kilometers out of the way to make stops in Hong Kong.

China's spokesman for Taiwan Affairs, Zhang Mingqing says arrangements for flights could be made by February. That would be in time for the Lunar New Year holidays, when many people in China travel to see relatives. Mr. Zhang says the charter flights would be "a little progress" but not enough. He says it is silly for the planes to make unneeded stops in Hong Kong or Macau, but hints China might accept such an arrangement for the time being.

Tens of thousands of Taiwanese living and working on the mainland now must take indirect flights, changing planes in Hong Kong or Macau. Taiwan has barred direct trade, transport, and postal links between the island and the mainland ever since defeated Nationalists fled to the island in 1949.

Taiwan's government worries that direct trade would give China a stranglehold on the island's economy.

China says Taiwan is a rebel province that should be brought under central government control, peacefully if possible, but by force if necessary.

The latest effort for direct flights follows the recent Communist Party Congress where Chinese President Jiang Zemin urged the two sides to shelve their differences and resume talks.

Taiwan's government has ruled against direct flights on the ground that the social and security costs outweigh the economic benefits.