The Bureau of Consular Affairs yesterday denied a media report that a schoolboy was able to get his passport renewed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at the last minute before boarding on Friday because he is Vice President Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) grandson.
“It was not the prerogative granted to the child and it wasn’t the first time that the bureau’s offices at the airport have fixed passengers’ passport renewal problems,” Bureau of Consular Affairs Director-General Thomas Chen (陳經銓) said.
Chen was responding to a report by the Chinese-language Apple Daily yesterday that said Wu’s daughter, Wu Tzu-an (吳子安), was given the privilege of being able to renew her son’s passport at the airport while 150 passengers were kept waiting in the cabin.
The China Airlines plane bound for Palau was delayed for 11 minutes as a result of the incident, the report said.
The report prompted criticism from Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌), who referred to the bureau’s Web site, which states that the bureau does not provide a walk-in service at Taoyuan airport for Republic of China citizens’ applications for passports, visas or document verification.
Saying the statement is still on the Web site, Tsai said the bureau granted the vice president’s family a privilege that was not available to the general public.
Chen said a passport application service at the airport has long been available at the two Ministry of Foreign Affairs Emergency Contact Centers in the restricted area of the two airport buildings, access to which is limited to passengers with boarding passes.
The two offices were set up to provide immediate assistance to passengers, with a 24-hour help line for Taiwanese encountering an emergency while abroad, and emergency issuance of visas and passports, Chen said.
In most situations, passports issued by the centers were given to people who needed to go abroad to help their family members in an emergency, but who lacked passports or whose passports remained valid for less than six months, he said.
There have been cases in which people had applied for or renewed their passports at the airport because the bureau’s offices were closed for the night or for holidays, as long as a rush surcharge of NT$900 was paid, Chen added.
In the case on Friday, Chen said, the bureau’s staff at the airport received a call from a woman through its hotline saying her child had not been allowed to check in because his passport would be valid for less than six months.
The bureau’s staff then met Wu Tzu-an, in a group of six, at the check-in counter and agreed to renew her son’s passport, Chen said.
Although it was not an emergency, the staff agreed to renew the child’s passport because they did not want to disappoint him at the end of his summer vacation, Chen added.
Chen said the bureau’s staff did not know the family’s background when they dealt with the case, adding that the ID card presented as required for a child’s passport application was his father’s, not Wu Tzu-an’s.
Chen said the centers at the airport have issued 330 passports over the past three years: 89 passports in 2010, 133 last year and 108 so far this year.
Separately yesterday, the vice president’s office said that Wu Den-yih did not know about the incident and that he is willing to apologize for the delay of the flight caused by his grandson’s passport application.
Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih and Rich Chang