Shanghai (Asia News/Agencies) - Jia Qinglin, Politburo Standing Committee member, told a forum in Shanghai that China is ready to set up direct charter flights to Taiwan during the holidays. The politician, deputy head of the Central Leading Group for Taiwan Affairs and chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said the ultimate aim would be to organise direct flights all the year round.
The Shanghai forum was attended by James Soong Chu-yu, who is head of the People First Party, the Taiwanese opposition. Jia said: "Based on the experience of charter flights during the last Lunar New Year, we hope to make cross-strait flights direct, round-trip and completely open from next year." China and Taiwan had organised charter flights to mark the Lunar New Year last February.
Jia criticised the Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian and his ruling Democratic Progressive Party: "Taiwanese authorities still have not given up the stance of becoming independent and are loudly advocating it. Separatist action is a practical threat, which does harm to Taiwan's economy and people's interests."
Jia is working to extend flights to more cities to create cargo transport links. He invited private industrial associations to present a plan. So far, flights link Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou with Taipei and Kaohsiung.
Soong said the first direct flight set up should link Taipei to Shanghai. "It would benefit 500,000 businesspeople and reduce their travel costs," he said.
The president of Shanghai Airlines Zhou Chi, who was present at the forum, said the main objective was to organise regular flights. "Temporary and short-term charter flights are actually more difficult to arrange. We want long-term co-operation and regular schedules."
Soong, who recently opposed an 11 billion US dollar budget proposed for purchases of arms from the United States, said future ties between China and Taiwan should focus on economics and not the potential military threat from China.