The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus’ motion yesterday to relieve Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Diane Lee (李慶安) of her legislative status over her alleged US citizenship was blocked by the KMT caucus, giving Lee until Jan. 31 to show documents and prove that she no longer has US citizenship.
At the session yesterday — the second last before the legislature adjourns on Friday — the DPP caucus pushed the motion, initially scheduled as item No. 47, to the top of the legislative agenda.
The KMT caucus did not boycott the change in sequence at the session, but proposed to refer the motion to cross-party negotiation, a process that can take as much as a month. The proposal was adopted by the KMT-controlled legislature.
Another motion initiated by the DPP to dismiss KMT Legislator Mark Li (李明星), who is believed to have taken up his legislative seat before giving up his US citizenship, was referred to cross-party negotiations at the request of the KMT caucus.
In response to DPP accusations that the KMT caucus was attempting to “cover up” the irregularities involving the two lawmakers, KMT legislative caucus whip Chang Shuo-wen (張碩文) said there was “a lack of legitimacy” for the legislature to handle the motions before Feb. 1.
“Referring the motions to cross-party negotiations was within the rules of the legislature,” Chang said. “Besides, dealing with the motions after Feb. 1 could prevent possible mix-ups if Lee shows the documents [that prove she is no longer a US citizen] before then.”
The Nationality Act (國籍法) requires that individuals with dual nationality renounce their foreign citizenship before assuming public office and obtain a certificate testifying to the loss of citizenship within one year of their inauguration. The law also requires that those with foreign citizenship be removed from their posts.
While the KMT, citing Article 20 of the Act, maintains it is legal for a public official to relinquish his or her foreign citizenship within one year after taking office, the DPP says that public officials should give up foreign citizenship before taking office, citing the same article.
In Li’s case, the DPP said Li did not give up his US citizenship until after he had assumed office on Feb. 1. Li, however, argues he followed the instruction he received from the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) before taking office.
Li said he renounced his US citizenship in April at the AIT and that he received a document from the US in October proving he no longer is a citizen of the country.
In a letter late last month replying to Taiwan’s inquiry on the citizenship status of sitting legislators, the US State Department said to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Lee “has previously been documented as a US citizen with a US passport and that no subsequent loss of US citizenship has been documented.”
Lee, however, insists that she automatically lost her US citizenship when she was sworn in as a Taipei city councilor 14 years ago.
Unconvinced, the DPP legislators allege that by having dual citizenship while holding public office, Lee defrauded public coffers of more than NT$19 million (US$574,000) in salary as a Taipei City councilor between 1994 and 1998 and NT$78 million in salary as a legislator since 1999 and demanded she surrender the “illicit gains.”