Sat, Aug 02, 2003 - Page 2 News List

DPP faithful wants to be first in line for passports

WHAT'S IN A NAME? ?A man who changed his name to Chen Shui-bian was the first to apply for a passport with the name ``Taiwan'' on the cover

CNA , TAIPEI

President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) namesake became the first person to apply for the new passport yesterday -- the first day that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs began to accept applications.

"Chen Shui-bian," who legally changed his name to that of the president a few years ago, said he feels it is a very meaningful event for the government to issue a new version of the passport displaying the word "Taiwan" in Roman script in addition to the national designation of "Republic of China" on its cover.

"Therefore, I wanted to be the first to apply for the new version of the passport, " said Chen, who is a founding member of the DPP's Yungho City chapter.

Chen arrived at the doors of the ministry's Bureau of Consular Affairs at 6:30am, two hours before the start of its regular business hours.

Bureau Director Yang Sheng-chung (楊勝宗), anticipating that there might be a large line, arrived at the office at 6:20am.

He gave Chen the No. 1 serial number for filing his application later to spare him from having to wait under the scorching sun for two hours.

The bureau will conduct a random, computerized drawing of the issued serial numbers on Aug. 15 to decide the first 100 recipients of the new passport. Those who file applications before Aug. 14 have an equal chance of securing the coveted No. 1 passport.

Nevertheless, many people were still anxious to file their applications. As of 11:25am, a total of 239 people had applied, including 163 from the greater Taipei area, 35 from Taichung, 37 from Kaohsiung and four from Hualien.

The new version of the passport will be formally issued Sept. 1. Old passports can continued to be used until their expiry dates.

In the past, the first copy of a new version of a passport was traditionally reserved for the nation's head of state.

This time, the president directed that the first copy be made available to the people since it is they who will benefit from the changes.

The serial numbers of the new passports will begin with "210000001," Yang said, adding that the "21" refers to the 21st century.

He reminded the public that some countries do not allow their visa stamps on old versions of passports to be automatically transferred to new passports.

"Those wishing to travel abroad should contact the local representative offices of specific countries prior to filing an application for a new passport," he said.

Some people have complained that they had encountered unnecessary inconvenience or embarrassment while traveling abroad because foreign immigration officers mistook them for Chinese nationals.

The addition of the word "Taiwan" on the cover of the new Republic of China passports will make them more distinguishable from those issued by the People's Republic of China, ministry officials said.

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