The legislature yesterday approved two proposals to probe the nationality of all lawmakers and government officials, following recent queries by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) over Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Diane Lee's (李慶安) US citizenship status.
The legislature resolved that information on all legislators should be submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) within a week after the next plenary session ends on June 3, while allowing government agencies to submit information on all public officials within three months from June 3.
However, any legislator can also propose a reconsideration of the bill before June 3.
The proposals — one by the DPP to investigate all legislators and the other by the KMT to include all public officials — were passed after a brief closed-door negotiation session between the DPP and the KMT caucuses yesterday morning.
The two initiatives were proposed in March after the Chinese-language Next Magazine accused Lee of having US citizenship, a claim that she denied.
The KMT proposal was put forward to counteract the DPP’s initiative.
Both proposals were put forward for further cross-party negotiation in March, but the DPP caucus successfully added the two initiatives to yesterday’s plenary agenda.
Article 20 of the Nationality Act (國籍法) prohibits anyone with foreign citizenship from holding a government position.
Any lawmaker or government official found to have dual citizenship would be relieved of his or her job and forced to return his or her salary.
Lee has said she obtained permanent residency in the US in 1985 and citizenship in 1991, but gave up her US citizenship after becoming a public official.
She has also cited Section 349(A)(4) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act, saying that she had lost her citizenship when she began to serve as a public official and took an oath of allegiance in relation to the job.
If Lee were found to be a US citizen, she would be required to give back all the salary she received as a Taipei City councilor between 1994 and 1998 and as a legislator since 1998, an amount estimated to be NT$100 million (US$3.29 million).
When approached by reporters yesterday, she declined to comment on the matter further.
KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) said the party believed all government personnel should be investigated.
He did not comment when asked on his way to the KMT caucus meeting if he still believed Lee.
MOFA said yesterday it had not received any official instructions from the Legislative Yuan to undertake responsibility for verifying the nationality of legislators.
However, the ministry hinted that the task would be daunting because “there are close to 200 countries in the world, each with their own set of immigration laws.”
MOFA spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh (葉非比) said that the ministry’s previous experience on seeking assistance from the US, the UK and Japan on verifying whether the presidential and vice presidential candidates possessed dual nationality showed that many nations require the consent of the individual before any investigation could take place regarding their status.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JENNY W. HSU