China will allow transit stops in Taiwan for its citizens traveling from three Chinese cities, allowing people from the mainland to travel on from the island for the first time.
The change is another step towards normalizing travel arrangements between the two sides which have enjoyed increasingly close business ties over recent years, and follows the launch last week of their first telephone hotline, Reuters reported.
It comes days before Taiwan goes to the polls for elections likely to put into power a political party that Beijing distrusts.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou met in Singapore at a historic summit in November, the first in 66 years.
Up to now, mainland citizens have been allowed to travel to Taiwan but are not allowed to travel on from there to another destination. Airlines from both sides operate between the mainland and Taiwan.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said in a statement on its website that passengers flying from Nanchang, Kunming and Chongqing will be allowed to transit through Taiwan’s main international airport before flying on to third destinations.
Mainland passengers in transit will not be allowed to leave the airport, it said, adding that the plan would be implemented after preparatory work between the two sides was completed.
Ma has expressed his appreciation of the plan, and EVA Airways, Taiwan’s second-biggest airline, also welcomed it.
The island’s independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party is on track to trounce the China-friendly ruling Kuomintang when Taiwan votes in a new president and parliament on Jan. 16.
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