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Cablegate: Penghu Islands Added to the Existing "Mini Three Links"

VZCZCXRO3712
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHIN #0754 0940233
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 040233Z APR 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4755
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 6597
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 0971
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 1805
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 5775
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 0145
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 7846

UNCLAS TAIPEI 000754

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AIT/W, EAP/TC, INR/EAP

FROM AIT KAOHSIUNG BRANCH OFFICE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TW
SUBJECT: Penghu Islands Added to the Existing "Mini Three Links"
Between Kinmen/Matsu and the PRC's Fujian Province


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

1. (U) During his visit to Penghu Islands on March 31, President
Chen Shui-bian announced that, starting April 1,
the Penghu Islands will be included in the existing "mini three
links." This means that residents of Penghu can travel to China via
ferries that connect the Taiwan-controlled islands of Kinmen
(Quemoy) and Matsu to Xiamen and Fuzhou on China's coast. Tourists
from China can also now travel to Penghu through the same more
direct route.

2. (SBU) Lin Ping-kun, Penghu's only elected Legislator
[(Non-partisan but pro-Kuomintang (KMT)] and Penghu's immigration
officials told AIT/K that they welcome the new policy, hoping it
will bring tourists from China to the Penghu Islands to boost the
tourism business and the local economy. This Legislator suggested
that the announcement was made primarily due to political
considerations since the legislative and presidential elections are
coming soon (December 2007 and March 2008 respectively). He went on
to predict that the announcement would boost the Democratic
Progressive Party's (DPP) support among voters in Penghu County,
which is now dominated by the KMT.

3. (SBU) Immigration officials stated that they have cancelled all
immigration staff weekend days off in order to accommodate the
processing of paperwork for the anticipated increase in inbound and
outbound passengers. The issue of weekends off for immigration
staff will be revisited when they see how many travelers are moving
in and out of Penghu Islands. They went on to say that under the
new policy, traveling between Penghu and Xiamen will take only two
hours compared to the previous travel time of seven hours, which
routed travelers through Hong Kong or Macao and then through Taipei
or Kaohsiung to leave/arrive Penghu. They emphasized that locals
expect the new policy to boost the Penghu economy tremendously.

4. (SBU) The new policy only applies to travel from Penghu by
people who have been registered as residents in Penghu for at least
six months. Military personnel, government employees, and teachers
cannot utilize the new mini-link to travel to China. According to
Penghu National Immigration Agency (NIA) specialist Morgan Wu,
qualified Penghu travelers have to apply to a local NIA office for a
"Kinmen-Matsu pass" before they can actually use the Penghu
mini-link. Director of Penghu Tourism Bureau Hung Tung-lin told us
that at this initial stage, Penghu passengers can fly via charter
plane from Makung to Kinmen or Matsu and then board a vessel to
Xiamen or Fuzhou, China. Chinese travelers can use the reverse
route to arrive in Penghu. According to Hung, Far Eastern Air
Transport, a local airline, is applying for regularly-scheduled
flights connecting Makung to Kinmen and Matsu. Hung estimated that
travelers will save around three hours and NT$10,000 (USD300) by
traveling the new routes.

5. (SBU) Wu told AIT/K that his office has received 40-50
applications and a number of inquiries from residents interested in
the mini-link routes during the first two working days (March 31 and
April 1). Wu noted that the tourism industry and gravel suppliers
(seeking to import cargo from the PRC) expressed the greatest
enthusiasm for the new opening. Local tourism operators are hoping
that the new mini-link will attract Chinese tourists to make a stop
in Penghu for a couple of days before they travel to other parts of
Taiwan. Penghu businesspersons who suffer from an insufficient
supply of locally excavated gravel hope that they will be able to
use cost-saving routes to ship gravel from China. China recently
banned all sand and gravel exports, but Taiwan hopes to negotiate an
exception to the ban for Taiwan.


THIELE

WANG

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