Items In Luggage Of Taiwanese Tourist Raised Suspicions Of Border Officials

Items in luggage of Taiwanese tourist raised suspicions of border officials

By Andrea Woo
Vancouver Sun
March 20, 2010

An overabundant supply of lingerie and cookware in a Taiwanese tourist's luggage first raised the suspicions of border officials at Vancouver International Airport.

That, combined with a large dose of miscommunication, caused them to fear Chun-hua Lee might be planning to stay in Canada much longer than 10 to 15 days.

They refused her entry, prompting an angry Lee to file complaints that now have Taiwanese officials in Vancouver and Ottawa questioning her treatment.

Jason Wang, chairman of the Taiwanese Canadian Cultural Society in Vancouver, has talked to Lee at length. He said the reasons she was turned away are outlined in a letter sent to her by Canada Border Services Agency officials a few days ago.

The letter listed three reasons Lee was turned away: inconsistencies in who she said she was meeting, whether she was employed and the fact she had brought cookware, which border agents deemed inconsistent with a tourist visit.

Lee had said she was visiting a friend, but her husband, reached in Taiwan by telephone, said she was visiting her cousin, Wang said.

As well, Lee called herself a housewife, while her husband said she worked part-time doing administration work at a clinic.

“It's a language and culture issue,” Wang said. “From her understanding, and from the cultural understanding, she would be referred to as a housewife. She only worked part-time at the clinic. You couldn't possibly express and understand those things without understanding the culture.”

The cookware was a gift for her cousin, Vancouver resident Hsi Chin Liu, with whom she was planning to stay.

Speaking to The Vancouver Sun through a translator Friday, Liu said some of the underwear in Lee's luggage was hers.

“I was recently in Taiwan, but my luggage didn't fit, so I left some for her to bring back to Vancouver for me,” Liu said. “There were five or six [sets] that were mine. I don't know how many she brought.”

Liu said her cousin is upset. “I spoke with her and she is, of course, very emotional and very depressed about this whole thing,” Liu said. “She hopes an explanation about why this happened will be given through the official channels, as opposed to [officials] not really commenting on it much.”

The CBSA defended its actions in an e-mail Friday to The Vancouver Sun.

“Once Mrs. Lee was deemed inadmissible by border services officers, she was allowed to withdraw her application and leave Canada on the next available flight,” CBSA spokeswoman Hanna Mahoney wrote.

“In addition, Mrs. Lee was provided with an interpreter and was kept fully apprised of her situation and her legal options were explained to her, once it was determined that she was inadmissible to the country.”