MOFA seeks consensus on passport cover

The China Post staff

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) decided yesterday to temporarily shelve the printing of the covers of new passports for citizens of the Republic of China (ROC) until a general consensus is reached on the words to be used on the cover. But the ministry stressed that those who plan overseas trips in the autumn will not be affected. The MOFA is scheduled to issue a new version of ROC passport in October. According to an earlier decision made by the Executive Yuan on Jan. 14, the new passport will have anti-counterfeiting plastic films with the words “Issued in Taiwan” on the cover. But the Foreign Affairs and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee of the Legislative Yuan passed on May 13 a resolution suggesting that the MOFA add the word “Taiwan” before the word “Passport” to make it “Taiwan Passport” on the cover. The Central Standing Committee of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) approved on July 2 a proposal made by Chairman Frank Hsieh to back the resolution. The party suggested that the Cabinet adopt the “Taiwan Passport” proposal. In a letter to DPP Legislator Chai Trong-rong, who had insisted on having “Taiwan Passport” printed on the cover, the MOFA said it would keep the word “Passport” on the cover and only add the words “Issued in Taiwan.” The ministry also requested understanding and support from Chai. Foreign Minister Eugene Chien led a team of MOFA officials to call on the lawmakers yesterday. Chien emphasized that his ministry will absolutely respect the opinions of the people.

He said the MOFA will abide by all the decisions made by the Legislative Yuan.

Chang Siao-yue, spokeswoman of the ministry, told the lawmakers that the MOFA will proceed with the plan to print the inside pages of the new passports. But it will wait for a consensus before printing the cover. Due to the MOFA’s temporary suspension of the printing of the cover, Chai and over a dozen of other DPP legislators canceled a protest set for today. The MOFA’s Chang stressed that the ministry respects the opinions of the Foreign Affairs and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee of the Legislature and the DPP leaders, but she did not make a firm commitment to change the words to “Taiwan Passport.” Minister Chien said that the new changes concerning the passport were not simply confined to the cover. He said one major purpose is to enhance the anti-counterfeiting functions of the passport. Chien said his ministry will coordinate with the caucuses of various political parties in the Legislative Yuan and the public as early as possible to decide on the words to be used in the passport cover so that people who plan to go abroad in three months will not be affected. However, it will not be easy to reach a consensus on the issue since lawmakers of the opposition parties are against the use of “Taiwan Passport” on the cover. They feel the move will give an impression that “Taiwan” has replaced the ROC as the national title.