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Thu, Aug 23, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Cabinet scraps plans to fingerprint entire nation

DATABASE The premier decided that to keep a record of the fingerprints of every Taiwanese national would be a violation of the citizens' human rights and privacy

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A controversial plan that requires all citizens over the age of 14 to be fingerprinted for their identification cards was scrapped yesterday morning at the Cabinet's weekly meeting.

Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) said at yesterday's meeting that keeping a database of fingerprints would be a violation of human rights and privacy.

Arguing for the fingerprint plan was Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋), vice minister of the interior, who said the database would help keep track of criminals and aid in investigations.

"The fingerprint identifies individuals with his private or personal information, which should be protected under the Constitution," Hsu Chih-hsiung (許志雄), minister without portfolio, quoted Chang as saying yesterday. "No government should enforce such a practice only for the convenience of criminal investigations."

A 1997 amendment to the Household Registration Law required that all citizens have their fingerprints taken in order to establish a national database.

A revision to the law to eliminate the provision will be later submitted to the legislature, Hsu said.

That would be the final blow to the fingerprint plan. Until now, the government has been reluctant to implement the 1997 amendment due to public opposition and a lack of financial resources.

Hsu said yesterday that because the government is strapped for cash, there was little chance that the fingerprint plan could go forward.

According the interior ministry, NT$700 million would be required to purchase fingerprint scanners, while another NT$2 billion would be needed to set up and manage the database.

Minister of the Interior Chang Po-ya (張博雅) earlier had supported the fingerprint plan.

Chang was absent from yesterday's Cabinet meeting, as she was attending an APEC meeting of women leaders in Beijing.

Officials from the Criminal Investigation Bureau were also opposed to scrapping the national fingerprint database. They said the database would help police to easily track suspects.

Hsu argued yesterday that most criminals today use high-tech tools in their crimes without leaving any fingerprints behind.

The Cabinet was doubtful about whether fingerprints were effective in solving or preventing crimes, Hsu said.

Whether or not foreigners would be required to submit fingerprints to the government to be kept in a database remained unclear yesterday.

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