Taiwan compatriots hail closer links with tmagic bands shades of greenhe mainland

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Xiamen Air cabin crew members, who are Taiwan residents, practice emergency evacuations in Fujian province. [Photo/Xinhua]

President Xi Jinping said China must, and will, be reunified, when he addressed a gathering in Beijing earlier this month to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Message to Compatriots in Taiwan.

Xi called for closer cross-Straits ties, and proposed connecting the Chinese mainland"s Fujian province to the islands of Jinmen and Matsu - which are attached to Taiwan but lie off the coast of the province - via water and gas pipelines, an electricity grid and road bridges.

Compatriots in Taiwan lauded the speech and expressed their eagerness for the proposed new links.

Chang Yang-yang, a postgraduate student of Traditional Chinese Medicine at Xiamen University, hoped to see a bridge that would connect the bustling mainland city to Jinmen, his home.

In 2009, Chang was admitted to Xiamen University in Fujian to study TCM, subsequently obtaining a certificate that allows him to practice in the mainland.

Chang, who practices medicine in Xiamen, said a bridge would bring the two sides even closer.

"It would be much easier for me to go home if the bridge is built some day, and allow my friends and relatives back in Jinmen to see me if they need my help," the 28-year-old said.

Tung Ming-hui, another Jinmen native, echoed President Xi"s comments, saying he couldn"t wait to see the new links.

"The water pipeline has alleviated shortages and reduced the extraction of groundwater on Jinmen," Tung said.

"We look forward to connecting to the mainland"s power grid because our thermal power plant consumes a lot of coal and is bad for the environment."

A pipeline delivering water from Fujian"s Jinjiang River to Jinmen went into operation in August.

The 28-kilometer pipeline provides 34,000 cubic meters of water a day to Jinmen. Investment for the project totaled 388 million yuan ($57 million).

In 2002, Fuzhou, capital of Fujian, supplied 2,300 metric tons of fresh water to Matsu, an archipelago close to Fuzhou. The one-time supply was loaded in a tanker and shipped to Matsu to alleviate drought.

Hsiao Ch"in-kuo, general manager of Matsu Sanlin Travel Agency, said people in Matsu also want a pipeline connected to the mainland like their Jinmen counterparts.

Hsiao said a bridge to the mainland would help boost the local economy via tourism.

Chen Ching-lung, a hostel operator in Xiamen, said Xi"s speech charted the course for future cross-Straits relations.

"The direction of peaceful development is totally correct," he said. "What the two sides should do is to mitigate their differences and improve communications."