Wed, Oct 01, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Artist miffed after exchange with AIT consular officer

MISCOMMUNICATION? The AIT said it had not rejected Chen Chieh-jen’s application but declined to comment on whether any visa officer was rude to the contemporary artist

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) rebutted complaints by artist Chen Chieh-jen (陳界仁) yesterday, after Chen told reporters that an AIT consular officer had been rude to him when he applied for a US visa last week.

A well-known contemporary artist, Chen has been invited to contribute to the Prospect.1 New Orleans contemporary art biennial next month.

The Chinese-language United Daily News yesterday quoted Chen as saying that when he went to AIT to apply for a US visa last week, an immigration officer rejected his application and said in Chinese: “I suspect you would stay in the country illegally.”

The AIT said in a statement that Chen’s application for a visa had not been rejected but it could not process the application because Chen had not provided all the information required on the form.

“Regrettably, instead of providing the information we needed to renew his visa, Mr Chen chose to misrepresent his experience to the media. His visa application remains active in our system and he is always welcome to return to complete the application process,” the statement said.

AIT declined to comment on whether any visa officer had been rude to Chen.

The newspaper report said Chen would create a blog to channel his frustration into creative energy by publishing the stories of people who say they have been treated rudely by AIT visa officers.

The collection of complaints will be part of a bigger project on the unfair treatment some Taiwanese allegedly meet when applying to visit the US, it said.

Chen said the project, rather than just being an outlet for his anger, could lead to a dialogue about “unfair treatment.”

Howard Peng (彭煒浩), a graduate of a US college, said he was not surprised by Chen’s experience.

Peng said he had had a similar experience and had heard stories in the same vein from others.

“I felt like they treated me as if I were a terrorist,” he said.

But Jackson Hsu (許玉元), a retired businessman, said he found AIT staff to be amicable.

“If you are going to the US for the right reason, then there is nothing to be scared of,” Hsu said. “The more you act like you have something to hide, the more the officers will suspect something is wrong.”

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