The Central Election Commission (CEC) said yesterday it would employ the help of foreign diplomatic missions in Taiwan to check if either of the two presidential candidates holds foreign citizenship.
The commission's decision came in the wake of allegations from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential hopeful Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) that his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rival, Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), has a US green card.
Ma recently admitted he had applied for permanent residency when he was studying in the US, but contended that his green card had already expired.
Hsieh insists Ma's green card is still valid.
The DPP candidate accused Ma last month of holding a US green card and early this month disclosed the alleged card number -- "AXXX39789" -- saying it was granted to Ma on Aug. 26, 1977, in New York.
Ma at first denied that he had a green card, but later said he once owned one.
He said he had obtained a green card in 1977, but the green card was automatically invalidated in 1985 when he applied for a visa at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) to travel to the US.
To ensure that neither of the candidates is a citizen of a foreign country, the CEC said it has decided to seek help from foreign diplomatic missions.
"Since the two candidates have clearly said they do not have foreign citizenships, we have decided to get in touch with foreign diplomatic offices and with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ... to confirm that information," CEC Secretary-General Teng Tien-yu (鄧天祐) told reporters yesterday.
If either of the candidates is found to be in possession of foreign citizenship, "his candidacy will be considered void," Teng said.
Hsieh's manager, Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), backed the move.
"We respect and abide by the law," Lee said. "The president of a country should certainly not be a citizen of another country -- a president should not even be only one step away from having another country's citizenship."
Ma yesterday also welcomed the commission's decision.
Ma's spokesman, Su Jun-pin (
"Our rivals made accusations without evidence, but we will not join them," Su said yesterday in front of the commission's office.
In related news, campaign officials from both camps drew lots to decide the order in which the candidates will be listed on the ballot.
Hsieh was represented by his campaign manager, Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), who drew the number "one."
"Taiwan's No. 1, prosperity all the way," Hsieh's campaign officials shouted outside the CEC's headquarters.
Chanting "Ma-Siew team wins, victory for Taiwan," Ma's campaign director Chan Chun-po (
Chan and Su later joined KMT Youth Corps members outside the CEC, cheering "March 22, cast your vote for number two."
Ma said that he was pleased with the number two, as the hand gesture for two was the same as "V" for victory.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MO YAN-CHIH