Wed, Oct 17, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Post office stamp raises teacher's ire

SEALED WITH A STAMP KMT legislators accused the Taiwan Post Co of violating administrative impartiality by stamping envelopes with the logo for the UN bid

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan Post Co (台灣郵政) came under fire in the legislature yesterday over the company's stamping of domestic and international mail with the logo of the government's UN membership bid.

Calling the measure a campaign ploy for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) accused the Taiwan Post Co of violating administrative impartiality.

At a press conference, KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said the measure was a violation of mail senders' freedom of speech and privacy.

"The postal service does not have the right to stamp a highly political logo on people's letters," Wu said. "This may cause trouble for others [senders and receivers] because the company is forcing them into adopting [the government's] political ideal."

Wu said the measure also contradicts the Postal Law (郵政法) as the law guarantees mail senders' privacy, adding that putting the logo on the envelope is similar to revealing the political preference of the sender.

The caucus' criticism came after local news station TVBS and the Chinese-language United Daily News reported yesterday the protest of an American teacher based in Taiwan.

The teacher, apparently surnamed Talovich, told reporters that the envelope of a letter he sent to his fiancee in the US was stamped with two logos by the postal service without asking for his permission.

"My fiancee considered this ridiculous and wondered why such things would happen ... I also felt very shameful," Talovich was quoted as saying in Mandarin.

"This is a private letter, not a government one. What the postal service did was like putting words in my mouth. I think this is intolerable," said Talovich, who has lived in Taiwan for more than three decades.

Talovich also posted a picture of the envelope on his Weblog, where he wrote in Mandarin: "Everyone enjoys freedom of speech. The more opinions people have, the better. A democracy cannot force its people to say something he doesn't want to say. No matter whether one supports or opposes a referendum [on seeking UN membership], a democracy cannot use our personal mail as propaganda flyers. This is an authoritarian measure," he wrote.

In the company's defense, president of the postal service Wu Min-yu (吳民佑) said the stamp represents government policy on gaining UN entry, adding that the company was not trying to influence public opinion through the measure.

Wu said the company randomly stamps the logo on roughly 35,000 domestic and 1,500 international letters every day.

"There was no violation of freedom of speech. The logo stamped on the envelope does not reflect the opinions of the sender," Wu said.

Wu did not say whether the measure was the Cabinet's idea.

Approached by reporters for comment, Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) said "[The stamp] was quite a normal thing."

It's government policy to push for entry into the UN using the name "Taiwan" and that is also the public's expectation. Therefore putting the slogan on mail is a normal thing, Chang said.

"It's a serious thing that we can't join international organizations. We are limited in [containing] infectious diseases and having outward communications. We must let the world know that it's unfair to prohibit Taiwan from joining," Chang said.

Taiwan Post Co officials announced late yesterday that those who do not wish their mail to be stamped with the slogan can mark their envelopes as such and that their wishes will be respected.

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