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Backgrounder: Milestones in cross-Straits relations over 30 years

  BEIJING, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- Authorities and civilians on the Chinese mainland and Taiwan have witnessed increasing progress in cross-Straits relations after China's top legislature declared a major policy regarding the island 30 years ago.

  The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) issued the "Message to Compatriots in Taiwan," which was published as a headline article in the People's Daily, on Jan. 1, 1979. It appealed for an end to hostile confrontation and tension across the Taiwan Straits.

  Here are some milestones in cross-Straits relations over 30 years.

  -- Mainland postal authorities started to receive and handle ordinary private mail sent to Taiwan in May 1979 and registered letters, telegrams and telephone calls in June. Although mail still needed to go through a third location, this development meant the postal route between the mainland and Taiwan resumed for the first time since 1949.

  -- Disregarding the island authorities' ban, Taiwan-based Independence Evening Post sent two correspondents to the mainland via Japan in September 1987. The correspondents, Lee Yung-te and Hsu Lu, became the first two Taiwan reporters on the mainland after 1949.

  -- The Taiwan and mainland authorities allowed civilians to visit their relatives on either side, respectively, from October and November 1987.

  -- In April 1989, Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine enrolled 13 students from Taiwan, becoming the first mainland university to accept applicants from the island.

  -- In May 1989, the State Council approved the first application to establish an investment zone for Taiwan businesses.

  -- Two mainland reporters, Fan Liqing from Xinhua News Agency and Guo Weifeng from China News Service, visited the island for an investigative report on fishing disputes in August 1991, taking the first step onto the island for the mainland journalists. In September 1992, Duanmu Laidi of Xinhua joined an 18-member mainland journalist delegation to Taiwan.

  -- On June 6, 1992, the mainland geneticist Tan Jiazhen, who gained a global reputation for achievements in genome research, led the mainland's first visiting group of scientists to the island at the invitation of famous physicist Wu Ta-you in Taiwan.

  -- The Mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) held the first meeting in Singapore on April 29, 1993.

  -- The Taiwan-based appliance maker Tsannkuen had its foreign-currency denominated shares listed on the mainland's Shenzhen Stock Exchange on June 30, 1993, becoming the first Taiwan-based listed company on the mainland.

  -- In 1994, the mainland gave approval for Taiwan news organizations to establish resident bureaus in the mainland.

  -- In April 1997, trial direct shipping links between southeast Fujian Province's Fuzhou, Xiamen on the mainland and Taiwan's Kaohsiung opened, ending 48 years of history with no direct merchant ship links.

  -- Direct cargo and passenger shipping between the coast of Fujian Province and Taiwan's Kinmen and Mazu started in January 2001.

  -- Fan Liqing and Chen Binhua of Xinhua News Agency went to Taiwan in February 2001 as the mainland's first two resident reporters.

  -- In March 2002, China's central bank, the People's Bank of China, gave approval for the first two Taiwan-based banks, Chang Hwa Bank and United World Chinese Commercial Bank (now Cathay United Bank), to establish representative offices in the mainland. The first mainland office for Taiwan-based banks was established in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province by Chang Hwa Bank in April.

  -- The first charter flight for the traditional Spring Festival between the mainland and Taiwan since 1949 was conducted by Taiwan-based China Airlines on Jan. 26, 2003.

  -- Zhejiang King Refrigeration Industry Co., Ltd. became the first mainland company invested by a Taiwan businessman to be listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange on Dec. 30, 2003.

  -- Passenger flights by mainland air carriers made their first direct arrival on the island without stops in Hong Kong or Macao in 2005.

  -- Leading a delegation from Taiwan, Kuomintang Party Chairman Lien Chan visited the mainland from April 26 to May 3, 2005 at the invitation of Communist Party of China Central Committee general secretary Hu Jintao. Hu and Lien held a meeting, which is the first for leaders of the two parties in 60 years.

  -- The ARATS and the SEF resumed talks after a nine-year suspension in Beijing during June 12-14, 2008.

  -- Weekend charter flights began on July 4, 2008. The flights carried 760 mainland tourists to the island, the first mainland tourist group to Taiwan since 1949.

  -- President of the mainland-based ARATS Chen Yunlin made the first visit as ARATS leader to the island at the invitation of SEF chairman Chiang Pin-kung from Nov. 3 to Nov. 7, 2008. They held the two organizations' first meeting in Taiwan.

  -- On Dec. 15, 2008, direct shipping, air transport and postal services were formally launched.