Reactions to passport redesign split along party lines

09/02/2020 05:11 PM
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Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (center) announces the new passport cover design Wednesday. CNA photo Sept. 2, 2020
Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (center) announces the new passport cover design Wednesday. CNA photo Sept. 2, 2020

Taipei, Sept. 2 (CNA) A new passport design announced by Taiwan's government on Wednesday to highlight the name "Taiwan" and minimize the country's official name, the Republic of China, drew mixed reactions that split along party lines.

The new passport cover, designed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), repositions and significantly shrinks the country's official English name while enlarging and using a bold font for the word "Taiwan."

While the Chinese version of "Republic of China (中華民國)" remains at the top of the cover, the English version of the name originally positioned below the Chinese now circles the national emblem in the middle of the cover.

The redesign came in response to a resolution passed by lawmakers in July that asked the ministry to highlight "Taiwan" over "China" on the passport cover, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said at a press conference.

In response to the move, the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) released a statement accusing the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of "again playing ideological games, minimizing and nearly erasing the country's official name, the Republic of China, in English."

The redesign does "nothing" for the convenience of citizens traveling abroad or for Taiwan's international standing, and shows the narrowness of the DPP's governing style, the statement said.

The KMT also questioned the government's assertion that Taiwan's current passport is easily confused with China's, pointing out that it already features the word "Taiwan" in English and that the two countries' passports are different colors.

Speaking to CNA, KMT Legislator Lu Yu-ling (呂玉玲) argued that the changes were part of a DPP effort to erode people's identification with the Republic of China, and suggested that the party planned to eventually remove that name from the passport entirely.

Many members of the DPP expressed their support for the changes, saying the new passport's emphasis on the English word "Taiwan" would prevent citizens from being misidentified as Chinese.

In an interview, DPP Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) argued that the minimization of the word "China" and the emphasis on "Taiwan" were the key visual elements of the new design, but he insisted that this did not amount to disrespect for the Republic of China.

At the same time, the new passport still contains the "necessary words" and will not cause any inconvenience for citizens using it abroad, he contended.

In similar comments, DPP lawmaker Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬) said that by "changing the cover but not changing the content," the government would avoid drawing protests from China, while also allowing people to immediately distinguish that the passport holder was "from Taiwan and not China."

The lawmakers appeared to be referencing fears that dropping the name "Republic of China" would be interpreted by China as a step toward independence, and would result in Beijing pressuring individual countries to declare the passport invalid.

Meanwhile, Legislator Chiu Hsien-chih (邱顯智), whose New Power Party typically allies with the DPP, said he approved of the new design and understood the government's gradualist approach on the issue.

In the future, the government should consider only using the name "Taiwan" on the country's passport, Chiu said, adding that his party would also push legislation to change the national emblem, which is based on the party emblem of the KMT.

The passport with the new cover design is scheduled to be issued in January 2021, according to MOFA.

(By Liu Kuan-ting, Wang Cheng-chung, Kuo Chien-shen and Matthew Mazzetta)

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