VP 'sorry' amid reports of privilege extended to family at airport - Focus Taiwan

VP 'sorry' amid reports of privilege extended to family at airport

Taipei, Aug. 25 (CNA) Vice President Wu Den-yih said he was sorry Sunday over the trouble caused to the foreign ministry after local media reports that the ministry's service desk at Taiwan's main international gateway offered unusually swift passport service to Wu's grandson.

Saying sorry to the ministry for the criticism it has endured, Wu told reporters that he did not know of the situation with his grandson until after the event and did not ask for the passport service to be expedited.

Local media reported Saturday Wu's young grandson was not allowed to check in on a flight to Palau because his passport was set to expire in less than six months.

His mother and the vice president's daughter, Wu Tzu-an, applied for an emergency passport for her son with the ministry's consular service desk at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, which managed to complete the application procedures in only an hour, allowing the family to board the flight. The process reportedly caused a several-minute delay while the flight waited for them to board.

Critics have blasted the foreign ministry since the news broke for alleged favoritism, pointing out that the Bureau of Consular Affairs website clearly states that the service desk does not handle passport or visa applications filed on the spot.

Officials with the office responded to the charges Sunday, explaining that express passport service for emergencies have been offered since 1998, and everyone is entitled to the service.

Director Hsu Tsung-ming said that the foreign ministry has since become aware that the statements on its website do not reflect its actual regulations.

The airport service counter typically offers express processing of passport applications to travelers with emergency needs, such as the death of a family member or medical treatment for critical conditions, he explained.

Travelers who discover only at the airport that their passports are expiring soon are also eligible for the service, he said.

He added that the center can only handle a maximum of 20 such emergency applications per day due to limited man power, however.

The service is open to anyone with a ticket for a flight set for immediate take-off or a document explaining their need for emergency service, Hsu added.

Emergency service takes about two to three hours to handle and requires an additional charge of NT$900 (US$30) on top of the standard fees for passport renewal -- NT$1,300 for adults and NT$900 for children, according to the center's deputy head, who asked only to be identified by his surname, Su.

Su added that the vice president's family paid the required processing fees when they applied for the new passport and were given no special treatment.

(By Wang Hung-kuo and Scully Hsiao) enditem/WH

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