China to allow mainlanders to make transit stops in Taiwan

A TransAsia Airways ATR airplane is seen parked at Taipei Songshan Airport February 13, 2015. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

(Reuters) - China’s move to allow transit stops in Taiwan for onward flights for the first time is a sign Beijing is trying to interfere with Taiwan’s upcoming presidential elections, the opposition party favored to win the polls said on Wednesday.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said passengers flying from Nanchang, Kunming and Chongqing would be allowed to transit through Taiwan’s main international airport before flying on to a third destination.

The news came just a few days before Taiwan is expected to elect a president from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Jan 16. The ruling Kuomintang (KMT), which is China-friendly, is falling behind in opinion polls.

“China for sure is doing this to give the KMT a boost in the elections,” said DPP lawmaker Chen Chi-mai. “It seems China is trying to dominate future Taiwan-China ties.”

Both sides across the Taiwan Strait have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war to the Communists.

Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring the island of 23 million people back under its control, particularly if it were to make moves towards formal independence.

The two sides had been discussing the transit plan, which proponents said could prove a boon for Taiwan airlines, by giving them more business from mainland passengers.

In the final hour of trading, shares of Taiwan’s two biggest airlines both jumped more than 2 percent, outperforming a decline of 0.9 percent in the benchmark index.

Reporting by J.R. Wu and Faith Hung; Editing by Clarence Fernandez