What you need to know
Washington DC's airport can still be seen around the edges and the sticker is easily removed, yet Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials are confident the amended passports will not hinder holders' freedom to travel.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs unveiled a rectified image within Taiwan’s second-generation biometric passport on Jan. 24, following a row over a design error on one of the passport’s illustrations late last year.
That design malfunction in December — in which the offending page showed the United States' Washington Dulles International Airport instead of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport — led to criticism of the ministry after its first response to the blunder was to shift blame to the government’s Central Engraving and Printing Plant (CEPP), which produces the passports.
To minimize the cost of the error, the ministry will use a sticker to cover up the fifth page of 550,000 passports already produced by the CEPP with the Dulles Airport image.
According to the ministry’s Bureau of Consular Affairs (BOCA) Deputy Director General Christine Tsai (蔡幼文), the sticker is composed of the same material as the rest of the passport and is an introductory page with travel reminders, not used to accept visas. It is backed by an illustration of Terminal 1 of Taoyuan International Airport.
Passports printed with the correct image (sans replacement stickers) are expected to circulate in May after the glut of 550,000 existing passports have been issued. The ministry says this remedial effort — estimated to cost NT$16.5 million (US$568,000) — will be cheaper than replacing the passports outright, which would have cost NT$220 million (US$7.56 million).
A list of bureau officials disciplined over the passport error was released, with punishments ranging from written warnings to reprimands. BOCA head Agnes Chen (陳華玉) resigned in December following the fiasco.
Tsai, who was issued two reprimands, said the punishment levied on current BOCA employees had been carried out, and that former BOCA employees involved at the time but now stationed abroad would be punished pending final approval by the foreign ministry.
Tsai urged citizens not to attempt to peel off the sticker, which could damage the passport and adversely affect their right to travel.
Tsai also rebuffed concerns that the sticker would pose a problem to Taiwanese travelers when confronted by customs officials in other countries, according to the China Times. “The sticker definitely will not affect passport functions,” she emphasized.
The Apple Daily reported that several legislators expressed concerns that the sticker could be easily removed. A bureau official responded by saying that removing the sticker would cause damage to the entire passport. The CEPP is also inspecting the sticker application process, the procedure requiring the signature of a designated consular official, to prevent errors.
Of the 296 passports issued with the erroneous image, the bureau has successfully recalled 65 and has made contact with 200 of the remaining 231 passport holders.
An Unabridged, Chinese-language version of this article can be found here.
TNL Editor: Morley J Weston