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Last Updated: Friday, 20 January 2006, 04:51 GMT
China and Taiwan resume flights
Air China jets at Beijing airport
Direct flights cut travel time by many hours
Direct passenger flights between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan have begun for a limited period during the Chinese New Year holiday.

Hundreds of Taiwanese arrived in Shanghai on first flight from Taipei on Friday morning.

Direct air links between the two rivals were broken in 1949 when nationalist forces fled from the mainland to Taiwan after losing the civil war.

This is the third year that flights have been allowed over the New Year.

It is not for long, though. In all, there will be just 72 round trips between now and the middle of February.

Taiwan says it is reluctant to allow regular direct flights because of security, but BBC Taiwan correspondent Chris Hogg says the easing of restrictions will please Taiwanese businessmen working on the mainland.

Rules relaxed

Normally passengers travelling between Shanghai to Taiwan have to break the journey and transfer to another plane in Hong Kong, which makes the trip a lot longer and more expensive.

"A trip that should only take one hour and now takes six - that's something no one in the world can understand," one Taiwanese businessmen told Reuters news agency.

But during the Lunar New Year period, when many Chinese people return home to celebrate with their families, the rules have been relaxed.

Both mainland and Taiwanese airlines are offering services connecting Taipei and Kaohsiung in Taiwan with Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Xiamen on the mainland.

Most of the 72 flights are already fully booked, according to the participating airlines.

But turning this occasional service into something more regular looks a long way off.

Frustrated by China's refusal to deal with his government, Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian has shown a tough stance against the mainland this year.

The Taiwanese government is currently threatening to exert tighter control over the flow of investment into China, our correspondent says.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Scenes from airports in Taiwan as flights to China resume



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