The Chinese idiom houlianpi (厚臉皮) literally means “thick-faced.” A more elegant translation would be “brazen,” and the word could not ask for a better model than Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Diane Lee (李慶安).
Having insisted for many months that her US citizenship had been “automatically annulled” the moment she was sworn in as a Taipei City councilor 14 years ago, Lee’s dual citizenship controversy finally ended on Wednesday when Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) released a letter from the US State Department.
It read: “Our records reveal that Wen-Chi Kung, born 10/18/1957, and Ching-An Lee, born 01/17/1959, have previously been documented as US citizens with US passports and no subsequent loss of US citizenship has been documented.”
The first name resulted in the misidentification of KMT Legislator Kung Wen-chi (孔文吉) as a US citizen; his name was similar to that of the person in the letter. But the Lee in the letter is the same person as the legislator: As far as the US government is concerned, she is a US citizen.
It is quite remarkable that a person as conspicuous, provocative and well connected as Lee could have spent nearly 300 days banking on an unsustainable lie. It is also instructive to recall that in 1994, as a Taipei City councilor, Lee launched a nasty attack on Taipei deputy mayor Chen Shih-meng (陳師孟) for having dual citizenship. Chen later relinquished his US citizenship with a trip to the American Institute in Taiwan. Little did anyone know that his accuser would go on to earn large amounts of money and exert significant influence as a legislator with exactly the same status.
The Central News Agency has quoted an official at the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs as saying that the case was closed, but Lee told a press conference yesterday that: “Everyone should wait for the result of a review by the US State Department because this case involves US law.”
With all credible evidence stacked against her, Lee owes the public an apology for 14 years of deception. Given her reticence and bizarre insistence that a letter from the State Department is not authoritative, however, a sincere apology is unlikely to be forthcoming; either way, criminal prosecution is the only just course for this hypocrite, whose career was built on slander and muckraking.
She will also need to return the very large amount of money that she made from her terms as legislator and city councilor.
But Lee is not the only person who deserves censure. Her colleagues in the legislature deserve almost as much criticism.
Legislators attempted to cover for Lee’s behavior by having the State Department letter marked as “confidential” and therefore hidden from the public, suggesting that members of the public, in their eyes, were not entitled to know if one of their representatives had been elected on false pretences.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and the KMT caucus have been shirking responsibility for uncovering the truth on this incident and have lost a lot of credibility. Now that the KMT is accusing DPP members of holding dual citizenship, it will be fascinating to watch how revenge, and not due process, expedites any subsequent probe.