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Last Updated: Friday, 12 May 2006, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
Taiwan delays vote on China links
By Caroline Gluck
In Taipei

Air China flight at Beijing airport
Air passengers must travel via a third country
A Taiwanese parliamentary vote on a bill aimed at scrapping restrictions on direct transport links with China has been delayed.

Political parties had been set for a showdown, with the opposition threatening to push the bill through using their parliamentary majority.

The ruling party and its allies oppose the changes, saying they would violate Taiwan's sovereignty.

Direct links between Taiwan and China were severed in 1949.

After hours of talks aimed at trying to avoid a vote on allowing direct transport links, lawmakers from the governing Democratic Progressive Party and its allies took to the legislative floor holding banners and chanting.

They accused the opposition of selling out Taiwan's national interests.

It was a short protest but an effective delaying tactic, as minutes later a bell rang out marking close of business for the day.

A vote on the controversial measures has now been postponed until next Tuesday.

Air and sea links

The opposition parties had wanted to amend three clauses to a cross strait law, lifting legal restrictions on direct flights and shipping links between Taiwan and China.

Direct links were broken off more than half a century ago when the Nationalists fled to Taiwan at the end of the Chinese civil war.

Taiwan businesses - which have invested around $100bn (52.7bn) in China in the past decade - have long lobbied for an easing of restrictions.

Flights to China involve stops in a third country, adding time and money.

The government says it is ready to open direct links, but not at the expense of the island's security.

It maintains that any step on agreeing direct links must first be negotiated by officials from Beijing and Taipei.

It opposes the opposition amendments, saying the island's sovereignty cannot be put to a vote.

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