The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is considering adding the word “Taiwan” to Republic of China (ROC) passports in order to better distinguish them from passports issued by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), according to a local news report. The Central Daily News, a paper run by the opposition Kuomintang, yesterday quoted unnamed sources as saying that the suggestion was passed on to Foreign Affairs Minister Tien Hung-mao after a recent meeting on “people’s diplomacy.” According to the report, the Tourism Bureau also recommended that MOFA’s overseas offices add the word “Taiwan” to their names as well, to prevent confusion with offices representing mainland China. The MOFA’s Tien has not commented on the suggestion, the report claimed, and the topic is expected to be taken up again at a inter-ministerial meeting early next year. Reports of a de facto name change on passports and overseas representative offices comes on the heels of a controversial decision by MOFA to change the ROC’s emblem to a plum blossom. At the time, diplomats said that the emblem looked too much like the KMT flag. Political analysts suggested that MOFA was apparently trying to emphasize the difference between Taiwan’s government and the party that had run Taiwan since it came over from the mainland in 1948. Already, reports of the proposed name change on passports is drawing criticism from opposition politicians. KMT lawmaker Lee Shang-ren said that MOFA was becoming overly ideological in its handling of even the simplest of matters. Lee warned that the proposed name change should not be put into effect. New Party Legislator Levi Ying accused the ministry of losing site of more important issues. Ying said, he also believes the motivations behind the proposed name change are highly suspect. However, the Central Daily News report quoted an unnamed senior diplomat as saying, that in the past citizens carrying ROC passports were often mistaken for PRC citizens, especially when passing through customs.
The diplomat was quoted as saying that the suggestion was made to limit cases of mistaken identity and also to make a symbolic statement to the world of Taiwan’s political independence.