Thu, Jun 05, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Ou dismisses questions over loyalty, green card

By Jenny W. Hsu and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) said yesterday his loyalty to the country should not be called into question because he had relinquished his US green card immediately after being asked to serve as foreign minister.

Ou was referring to an article published in Next Magazine that challenged his loyalty because he applied and received a US green card during his stint as ambassador to Guatemala in 2005.

In an emergency press conference yesterday afternoon, Ou admitted that he had applied for a green card during his service as ambassador, but said that the green card was to be used after he retired from public service.

Ou said it was his wife who had suggested participating in the annual US green card lottery and it was pure luck that they won a spot.

“My children work and study in the US. My 90-year-old mother-in-law also lives in the US. The plan was that my wife and I would settle in the US after I retire. This way we could be closer to our children and take care of my mother-in-law,” Ou said.

The minister said, however, that he immediately went to the US embassy in Guatemala to relinquish his green card as soon as he was asked to serve as a minister.

“I inquired with the US ambassador on how to relinquish my green card and he suggested the quickest way was for me to fill out the form so that’s exactly what I did,” he said.

Ou said that as he had given up his US permanent residency, he plans to stay in Taiwan after his retirement, but said: “Just because people move out of the country, does not mean they love Taiwan any less.”

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus yesterday questioned Ou’s loyalty and asked him to resign.

“He was an ambassador whose salary was paid by Taiwanese taxpayers, yet he was getting ready to live in the US. I think he needs to apologize and step down,” DPP legislative caucus deputy whip Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) said at a press conference yesterday morning.

At a separate press conference yesterday, Executive Yuan Spokeswoman Vanessa Shih (史亞平) came to Ou’s defense, displaying copies of certificates of loss of US permanent resident status, the I-407 forms signed by Ou and his wife Lena Ou (劉之媛) on April 16.

“[Ou and his wife] surrendered the right to permanent US residency at the US embassy in Guatemala immediately after Ou decided to take up the position of minister of foreign affairs,” Shih said.

Shih said that there were no irregularities in the matter because Ou renounced his US green card before taking up his position as a minister.

Asked by reporters if any Cabinet members hold dual nationality, Shih said “no.”

Before assuming their roles, at the request of Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄), Cabinet members all filled out a form declaring they did not hold citizenship in any another country, Shih said.

“According to the forms, none of the Cabinet members holds dual nationality,” Shih said.

The Cabinet, however, did not investigate whether any Cabinet members were green card holders.

Dual nationality is not permissible under the Civil Servants Work Act (公務人員服務法), but the law does not cover green card status or other permanent resident status.

“Although holding a US green card is not illegal, we believe Cabinet members have dealt with the matter as they are aware of the public’s expectations,” Shih said.

Ou is the latest government figure to become embroiled in a US green card controversy, following accusations during the presidential campaign from then DPP candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) still possessed a valid green card.

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