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Monday, 5 February, 2001, 12:29 GMT
Historic China-Taiwan trip
Taiwan boat
Two Taiwanese boats sailed to China in January
A Chinese boat will make history on Tuesday when it becomes the first in half a century to sail officially to Taiwan, according to reports.

The ferry, which leaves Xiamen in south-east Fujian province at 0900 (0100GMT), will carry mostly elderly people to meet relatives on the small Taiwanese island of Kinmen, just a few kilometres off the mainland.


The group is not scheduled to meet any Taiwanese officials during the four-day visit, according to AFP news agency.

Taiwan has been separated from China since 1949, when the nationalists fled to the island after losing the civil war to Mao Zedong's communists.

"The boat will carry more than 90 senior citizens visiting relatives on Kinmen," a Chinese official told AFP.

"There will also be some medical personnel, and a number of Chinese journalists."

Breakthrough

Many of those taking part in Tuesday's trip were born on Kinmen. They went to Fujian to work or marry, only to find themselves cut off from their families when the iron curtain descended.

The ferry will be the first mainland vessel to take part in newly-established direct trade, transport and postal "mini-links", so called because they only connect Taiwan's outlying Kinmen and Matsu islands with selected ports in Fujian.

Taiwan sent its first two boats to make an official trip to the mainland on 2 January, and 10 Taiwanese businessmen sailed from Kinmen on Friday.

Taiwan has hailed the mini-links as a breakthrough in cross-Strait relations, but the reaction on the mainland has been lukewarm.

China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province that must eventually be reunited, says the mini-links do not go far enough.

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See also:

14 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan welcomes China tourists
03 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Beijing snubs Taiwan's links move
02 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan boats in historic China trip
23 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan nationalist meets Beijing official
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
China rejects Straits summit
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