U.S. gov’t apologizes for fingerprinting envoy Lee

TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post Staff

The U.S. Department of State has apologized to Taiwan for taking the fingerprints of the island’s top envoy to Washington David Lee when he arrived there to take on his new post, a foreign ministry official said yesterday. The ministry’s Information and Cultural Affairs Department Director Richard Shih confirmed a China Times report yesterday that Lee was forced to have his fingerprints and photo taken when he arrived at the John Foster Dulles Airport, Washington, D.C., on July 23.

It violated a protocol between Washington and Taipei which exempted diplomats of each other from these precautionary security measures, Shih said. William Brown, the acting chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan who greeted Lee at the airport apologized to Lee after failing to persuade the security guards from the U.S. to waiver the requirement for Lee. The American Institute in Taiwan is Washington’s de-facto embassy in Taiwan. According to a security measures taking effect in May, visitors to the United States are required to be fingerprinted and photographed. But U.S. officials are not familiarized with these new regulations and there are differences in enforcing the measures in various airports, Shih said. Lee is not the first Taiwan diplomat posted in the United States to be fingerprinted, Shih said. He added Taipei has protested to Washington about this before and has been assured that the issue will be addressed. The China Times said Lee claimed diplomatic immunity when he was asked to have his fingerprints and photo taken at the airport, so did Brown who showed his identity as AIT chairman and talked to the security chief at the airport in a vain attempt to win Lee his due treatment according to diplomatic protocol. Not to cause trouble to the host country, Lee abided by the security measures and left the fingerprints of his index fingers of both hands on a computer and had his photo taken as did ordinary passengers, said the China Times.