Thu, Jan 04, 2007 - Page 2 News List

NIA will respect privacy: director

By Max Hirsch and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

National Immigration Agency (NIA) Director Wu Chen-chi (吳振吉) has requested that immigration officers respect the privacy of Chinese applicants seeking immigrant or residency status in Taiwan during interviews.

With Ministry of the Interior Vice Minister Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) standing at his side yesterday, Wu pledged he would crack down on any agency officers who violate the privacy of Chinese interviewees by asking overly personal questions, such as: "How often do you have sex with your Taiwanese fiance?"

The immigration chief sought to assure lawmakers of the fairness and competence of his new agency in the legislature's Home and Nations Committee.

The agency was inaugurated on Tuesday, and is charged with handling all immigration and visa-related matters in an effort to streamline such operations.

However, the agency has met with stiff criticism in its first days of operation by Chinese immigrants and pan-blue lawmakers who allege that the organization has inherited unfair or discriminatory practices from its predecessor, the Bureau of Immigration under the National Police Agency.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislators Chu Fong-chi (朱鳳芝) and Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) yesterday echoed the comments of protesters who rallied at the agency during its opening ceremony on Tuesday.

They said that immigration officers habitually bully would-be immigrants from China by asking them intensely personal questions regarding sex with their Taiwanese fiances or spouses.

"Those kinds of questions are inappropriate, and they fail to conform with our nation's reputation for respecting human rights," Chu told Wu.

The agency director agreed and said the agency would "sternly punish" any officer behaving in such a manner toward interviewees.

Deflecting criticism that the agency's new biometric identification system represented a further violation of the privacy rights of Chinese immigrants and other foreigners in Taiwan, Wu said that the system was a necessary evil.

The German-developed system boasts a successful identification rate of 97 percent, and includes a high-tech iris scan and database, according to local media.

Initially, the system will be used to indentify and store information on Chinese visitors to Taiwan, but its face and iris scans will eventually be applied to all incoming foreigners, Wu said.

Wu added that the high-tech system was needed to combat sophisticated ID forgeries originating in China, and that it would not be used to discriminate against Chinese immigrants.

The system will be fully operational by the end of this year, the immigration chief said.

KMT Legislator Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) said the measures are mostly used by countries under the threat of terrorism.

"Could it be said that the government treats Chinese tourists and Chinese spouses as terrorists?" he said at a separate press conference yesterday.

"If the measures are for national security concern, they should be applied to all applicants regardless of their nationality. To apply only to Chinese applicants is nothing but the discrimination of fascism," Tsai said.

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