Fri, Jun 10, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Activists ready to confront Hsieh over fingerprinting

CONSTITUTIONALITY The premier says the Cabinet is merely doing its duty, but activists are hoping an interim order by the Council of Grand Justices will halt the policy

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Human-rights activists yesterday said they would protest to Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and urge him to suspend a policy of collecting fingerprint data for new photo identification cards, while the Cabinet announced that fingerprinting would be optional until the Council of Grand Justices ruled on the matter.

"Because the public is concerned about the potential of a leak of private and classified information, the grand justices are [expected] to give an interim order to suspend the controversial policy, especially now that a request for an interpretation of the Constitution has been filed," said Kao Yung-cheng (高涌誠), executive-general of the Judicial Reform Foundation.

Kao said that human-rights activists had organized a new team called the "Anti-fingerprint-collection action group." Group members would begin protest activities soon and hoped that the justices would deliver a verdict before July 1, the date when the government begins implementing the new policy, he said.

"If the grand justices cannot do it in time, then that will be fine as well," Kao said.

"But I would suggest that those who have fears about supplying their fingerprint information should not hurry to apply for their new photo identification cards, because the old cards will be valid until September next year anyway," he said.

The Judicial Yuan yesterday refused to comment on the matter apart from saying that the justices would arrive at a verdict independent of outside influence.

A request for an interpretation of the Constitution was filed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus on May 30 in the hope that the justices would declare the policy unconstitutional.

Justices can take more than six months to reach verdicts.

Kao said that the activists would meet Hsieh in the near future to plead their case.

In the meantime, Cabinet Secretary-General Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) announced during a DPP central standing committee meeting yesterday that applicants for the new cards could elect not to have their fingerprint data taken.

However, were the justices to rule that the policy did not violate the Constitution and if the government proceeded with its implementation, those who do not provide fingerprints will need to do so at a later date.

Chinese-language newspapers yesterday reported that the government might suspend the policy. The reports were denied by the Cabinet.

"I have said more than once that the Cabinet is only responsible for carrying out policies, not fixing them or amending them," Hsieh said.

"If the justices ask us to suspend the policy, then of course we will do so. However, at this time we have received no such order," he said.

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