Fri, Jun 13, 2003 - Page 3 News List

ROC passports will get makeover

IDENTITY The minister of foreign affairs says practical considerations rather than politics are behind the move to put `Taiwan' on passport covers beginning Sept. 1

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien yesterday holds a copy of the new passport with the word ``Taiwan'' printed on the cover. The passport is due to be issued starting Sept. 1.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Starting Sept. 1, the country will begin issuing a new version of passports with the word "Taiwan" printed on the cover in Roman script, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday, stressing that the move was governed by practical considerations and not politics.

"It's our hope to begin issuing the new passports on Sept.1,"Minster of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) said yesterday afternoon.

Chien held the press briefing after a closed-door meeting with around 10 lawmakers from several parties to discuss the long-delayed passport reform project.

Dubbing the meeting as "harmonious," Chien said the ministry planned to issue the new passports on Sept. 1 at the earliest, despite some legislators' suggestion that the scheme should be implemented as soon as possible.

It is estimated that there are still about 330,000 old passports in stock and that they will run out by the end of September, Chien said.

According to the plan, the word "Taiwan" in Roman letters will be added to the middle of the cover. The rest of the current design -- including the national emblem and the nation's name, Republic of China (ROC) written in English and Chinese -- will remain, Chien said.

The minister said the changes are practical and not the result of any political strategy.

In fact, Chien said, the foreign ministry found the whole process of passport reform difficult because it involved the sensitive issue of reunification versus independence in Taiwan.

"We've endeavored to find the great common denominator that everyone agrees on, without running the risk of lapsing into the political difficulties I've just mentioned," he said.

Chien said he hoped Taiwanese nationals traveling with the new passports would no longer be mistaken for travelers from China, as the new covers are expected to help distinguish Republic of China passports from People's Republic of China passports.

Chien acknowledge that many citizens had complained about the confusion caused in other countries by having an ROC passport.

To illustrate his point he told how two ministry officials were recently "trapped" while in transit at the Rome airport because their ROC passports were mistaken for PRC passports by airline crews.

The minister dismissed the possibility of having the word "Taiwan" placed inside the passport, saying that placing the word on the cover would greatly help to distinguish this country's passport from PRC ones.

The ministry will explain the change to foreign countries and airline companies around the globe in a timely manner, Chien said.

Officials, however, were silent when asked by the press to clarify related laws to regulate the period during which both the current passports and new passports will be circulated among Taiwanese nationals.

Several recent polls have shown that more than half of the respondents backed the proposal to add the word "Taiwan" to the current passport covers to help ROC passport holders during their foreign travels.

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