Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) yesterday pledged to lodge a strong protest during his upcoming visit to China to his Chinese counterparts over Beijing’s unilateral decision to replace China’s “Taiwan compatriot permit” (台胞證) with electronic cards last month.
During a question-and-answer session at the legislature in the morning, Hsia said consensus has been reached with Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) to hold high-level talks during his planned visit to Guangzhou and Dongguan between Oct. 13 and Oct. 15.
The scheduled talks will be Hsia’s second meeting with Zhang, following one in Kinmen in May, as well as the fourth set of high-level cross-strait talks since the first official contact between the governments on either side of the Taiwan Strait took place in Beijing in February last year.
“The council will surely take this opportunity to express our discontent over China’s unilateral policy of changing the form of the travel document,” Hsia said.
Hsia was referring to China’s official introduction of the new card without prior consultation between the two sides.
He said the council was formally notified only 20 minutes before a trial of the integrated-chip card system began in July. Formal implementation of the new card began on Sept. 21.
The change sparked speculation that it was part of Beijing’s attempts to downgrade Taiwan’s status to that of Hong Kong and Macau, and raised concerns about police surveillance of Taiwanese travelers.
“Legislators across party lines previously issued a joint statement urging relevant government agencies to register a protest to Beijing over its unilateral adoption of the electronic travel card,” Hsia said on the sidelines of the session.
“Since the legislature has asked as to do so, then we shall do it,” Hsia said, adding that the council’s dissatisfaction with China’s implementation of a new policy on such short notice and without prior deliberation would be clearly voiced.
However, Hsia dismissed the likelihood of personal information leakage by using the card, saying the electronic card contained the exact same information as the previous paper-version.
Taiwan’s immigration and border controls are far stricter than those of China, as Taiwanese tourists can enter China with just an electronic travel card, while Chinese travelers have to hold an Exit and Entry Permit for the Taiwan Area of Republic of China (ROC), which is printed with both the flag and title of the ROC, he said.
Chinese visitors to Taiwan not only have to leave their fingerprints, but also face several restrictions on the length of their stay, Hsia added.
In related news, Executive Yuan’s Information and Communication Security Technology Center head Hsiao Hsiu-chin (蕭秀琴) yesterday said Taiwanese holders of the new travel card should use radio frequency identification (RFID)-blocking wallets to avoid being tracked or identified, despite what she called a slim chance of the Chinese government installing satellite receivers due to cost concerns.
RFID-blocking wallets are generally used to prevent contactless cards from being scanned and copied by fraudsters.
“While the new electronic travel card is embedded with RFID tags, they have a relatively short read range of within 10cm … and just like Taiwan’s EasyCard, its location cannot be tracked by satellite,” Hsiao said.
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