NSC apologizes over incident at airport involving senior official

The National Security Council (NSC) has apologized for an incident during the Lunar New Year holiday last month in which one of its top officials allegedly pressured customs staff to be allowed to fly out of Taiwan earlier than scheduled, a Presidential Office spokesperson said on Tuesday while also denying that the official had breached any rules.

The opposition New Power Party (NPP) legislative caucus held a news conference on Tuesday where it exposed the incident.

According to a tip-off received by the NPP, the head of the NSC Secretariat, who had obtained official approval to board a flight scheduled to depart at 12:15 a.m. on Jan. 22, had flown out of the country ahead of schedule after intimidating customs staff, NPP Legislator Chiu Hsien-chih (???) said without specifying the official’s name.

The official, who was scheduled to embark on a five-day trip with their family, reportedly arrived at the airport at around 10 p.m., and proceeded to the boarding gate, Chiu said.

After being stopped by customs staff from boarding his flight, the NSC official allegedly bellowed at five customs officials and slammed his hand on a desk during the exchange, Chiu said.

The head of the Borders Affairs Corps, who happened to be inspecting the airport at the time of the incident, instructed the customs officials to let the official and their family through, he said.

They boarded a plane at 11:40 p.m., and the plane departed at 11:53 p.m., Chiu said.

Government officials whose work involves national security who need to take overseas trips must report their schedules ahead of time and obtain official approval letters, which set out specific times for their departures, he said, criticizing the official in question for “throwing his weight about.”

The NSC and the Immigration Bureau should launch internal investigations and mete out the necessary punishments, while the Control Yuan should also launch a probe into any negligence or malfeasance on the part of officials involved, Chiu said.

Presenting a 2017 directive from the Ministry of the Interior, NPP Legislator Claire Wang (???) said that officials whose work make them privy to state secrets should allow customs an extra day to process their flights if they are scheduled to leave or return to the nation in the early hours.

She condemned the official for disregarding the directive and for abusing their power.

In response, Presidential Office spokeswoman Lin Yu-chan (???) denied that the official in question had breached any regulations.

She said the official in question was in charge of “administrative work” at the NSC who needed to go through a certain procedure before being allowed to leave the country.

However, an investigation by the Presidential Office found that the official had not departed earlier than scheduled, but at 12:15 a.m. as scheduled, she said.

While the official had followed the rules, the official did cause a misunderstanding due to poor communication, she said.

The NSC will handle the incident according to due procedure and has apologized to all parties affected, she said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel