Wed, Nov 29, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Chen again accused of planning to flee

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Pan-blue lawmakers yesterday again accused the president of setting the stage to abscond, citing a legal amendment to passport rules submitted in 2004 as "evidence" of his intent, while foreign ministry officials said the allegations were groundless.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) said yesterday that an amendment to the Passport Statute (護照條例) was intended to help President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) flee the country after he leaves office in 2008, if he or his wife is indicted.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, said the accusation was groundless, since the amendment had been submitted to the legislature two years ago.

Tsai said that Article 12 of the amendment permits "the president, vice president and their spouses" to use travel documents that "belong to the category of diplomatic passports." The documents can be used for state visits to diplomatic allies.

There are two pages to such a travel document. On the first, the minister of foreign affairs is required to describe the purpose and itinerary of the visit, and to endorse it with his or her signature. The second page is the photo page, with room for Customs to apply a visa stamp.

The documents can only be used once and must be returned to the ministry after use.

During a regular press conference held yesterday, ministry spokesman David Wang (王建業) said that a diplomatic passport and the special travel documents do not conflict with each other, and the president can choose to use either one when traveling overseas on a state visit.

Wang said that the amendment contains nothing different from the original article with regard to the travel documents, but simply aims to clarify the act's description.

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