Fri, Jun 23, 2017 - Page 3 News List

China’s new travel pass poses security risk: lawmakers

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

A new “Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents” to be issued by Chinese authorities reportedly contains “smart” card features that would make it easy for Taiwanese tourists in China to be subjected to police surveillance, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers said yesterday.

China is reportedly getting ready to launch a “smart” travel pass for Taiwanese by the end of this year, which would allow travelers to purchase train tickets, enter train stations and complete online check-ins for flights.

It would be the new edition of an IC card China introduced in 2015 to replace the passport-style document that Taiwanese had previously used to enter China.

It would also serve as an identification card with the digits to be increased from eight to 18 — the same as on Chinese identification cards — so Taiwanese could upload their resumes on Chinese human resources Web sites that require jobseekers to enter the 18-digit number.

Although China’s change to the “smart” card is more convenient for travelers, it could also be a convenient way to monitor Taiwanese who use it for travel and business purposes, DPP Legislator Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) said.

More than 1 million Taiwanese hold Mainland Travel Permits, and it is not impossible to track that many people with today’s technology, Huang said.

DPP Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) said he welcomes Beijing’s granting of national treatment to Taiwanese, but the lack of discussion and transparency is suspicious.

“Suspicion is unavoidable because [Beijing has] moved unilaterally without any negotiations and because the degree of information transparency and freedom of speech in China is unclear,” Chao said. “Therefore, we would like both sides to return to the negotiating table and relaunch official dialogue to ease suspicions.”

The Mainland Affairs Council and the Straits Exchange Foundation should assess the privacy risk involved with the new card and caution the public, but the two agencies have hardly done anything, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said.

The card is part of a series of benefits Beijing has announced it would extend to Taiwanese, including the eligibility of Taiwanese employees for a housing fund and other social insurance, scholarships for Taiwanese students, streamlining the credit card application process, requiring high schools to register Taiwanese students for future employment, allowing Taiwanese to work in more Chinese institutions and locations, allowing Taiwanese legal firms to operate in more locations and others.

Some view these benefits as having the hidden agenda of assimilating Taiwanese, as they are expected to substantially increase the willingness of Taiwanese to pursue a career in China.

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