TAIPEI (The China Post) — Many people see Taiwan as a relatively safe country for traveling alone; however, if you’re traveling by yourself, you should think twice before heading out without telling your family and friends where you’re going.
That’s the lesson foreigners should learn from the sudden disappearance of a Japanese tourist as Taiwanese and Japanese officials say that they have limited power to locate any “missing” foreigners on tourist visas.
In an exclusive interview with The China Post, Martin from the Philippines said he has been unable to contact his pal, Takahiro Fuchigami, a 40-year-old Japanese who has been living in Taiwan for the past six months on a tourist visa.
Takahiro has been missing for over a week now and his friends are so worried about him.
Takahiro reportedly told Martin and his host family that he was going to Taipei’s Gongguan area to check out a few classes on Aug. 13 and hasn’t been seen or heard from ever since.
Martin asked around on foreign community Facebook groups but no one has seen Takahiro.
Alarmed by his sudden disappearance, Martin and Yvonne Chen, a member of Fuchigami’s host family, tried to seek help from Taiwanese authorities, but to no avail.
To their surprise, after reporting their concerns to local police, officials from Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency (NIA), and even the Taipei Office, Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, said they can’t help locate Takahiro.
The main issue is: they are not family members.
The China Post reached out to Yvonne Chen who said that when Takahiro still hadn’t returned three days later, she went to the Xizhi Police Station near her house to ask for help.
However, there was nothing they could do as the man was a foreigner and they have no access to his personal information.
Even more worrisome, she couldn’t issue a “missing person” alarm because she isn’t a family member.
The only thing they could do was share his picture on the police chat group and ask other officers to look out for the man during their rounds, Chen added.
Chen said she also received the same answer from the Zhongshan Police Department after asking around Gongguan about Fuchigami’s whereabouts.
Later, Chen also called the NIA and was referred to the Taipei City and Taipei New City’s Specialized Operation Brigades.
According to Chen, the NIA told her that the most they could do was mark Fuchigami’s name in the system so that if he were to be taken to a hospital and his ID was scanned, an alert would pop up notifying medical personnel that people were looking for the man.
However, the catch was, a family member would need to authorize this action in order to mark Fuchigami’s name in the system.
When contacted by The China Post, the NIA said that should they receive reports from relatives in Taiwan or related parties (關係人), they would make a note in the system and alert them when authorities have further details about the case.
Chen eventually went to the Taipei Office, Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, and was told that they don’t handle “missing persons” reports. If they need help locating someone, they would need a letter of authorization as personal information would need to be accessed.
As of press time, Takahiro is still out somewhere, and with no way of contacting his relatives in Japan, all his friends in Taiwan can do is wait and hope for the best.
Please share this report and contact local police if you have any information regarding Takahiro’s disappearance.