Fri, Jan 09, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Diane Lee quits legislative seat

‘TOO MUCH TO BEAR’The DPP and pro-independence groups said they would proceed with their siege of the legislature despite the legislator’s surprise decision

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Hundreds of residents yesterday morning participate in the green camp’s petition at Tonghua Market in Daan District of Taipei City, demanding that Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Diane Lee resign immediately. Lee tendered her resignation later yesterday afternoon.

PHOTO: CNA

Haunted by her dual-citizenship controversy for more than 300 days, Legislator Diane Lee (李慶安) yesterday announced her resignation from the legislature.

“[The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)] has taken advantage of my case to hijack the central government’s fiscal budget proposal and incite riots in society,” she told a press conference yesterday afternoon. “I became a legislator because I wanted to do something for the country. If the situation really has become that bad because of my case, it would be too much for me to bear. After doing some thinking last night, I decided to resign.”

Lee, who was sworn into her fourth legislative term on Feb. 1, found herself in the middle of the controversy when accusations surfaced in March that she had never renounced her US citizenship as required by law.

The Nationality Act (國籍法) prohibits all government officials from holding dual nationality and requires that those who are dual citizens to give up their foreign citizenship before assuming office and present proper documentation as proof within one year of being sworn in.

Lee insists that she automatically lost her US citizenship when she was sworn in as a Taipei City councilor 14 years ago. But in a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) late last month in response to an inquiry by Taiwan on the citizenship status of all sitting legislators, the US State Department said Lee “has previously been documented as a US citizen with a US passport and … no subsequent loss of US citizenship has been documented.”

Lee’s announcement yesterday came as a surprise to many, as she had expressed confidence the previous day that she would be able to prove by Jan. 31 that she no longer was a US citizen.

Lee told a press conference yesterday that she had felt “very pessimistic” after learning of the DPP’s plan to besiege the Legislative Yuan today and paralyze legislative sessions. Lee was referring to a plan by the DPP and a number of pro-localization groups to hold a demonstration at the legislature around the clock starting today.

Lee said that although she had managed to fight the pressure while awaiting the final result of the State Department’s review of documents proving the nullification of her US citizenship, she could not bear to see conflict break out in the legislature while her colleagues face pressure.

Despite her resignation, Lee said she and her lawyers still believed that she had lost her US citizenship the moment she took an oath to become a public official in Taiwan.

She declined to answer any questions during the press conference.

Lee was barred from traveling overseas by the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office on Monday and voluntarily relinquished her Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) party membership on Dec. 27.

KMT headquarters yesterday expressed regret over Lee’s decision to quit her position as legislator, saying the party would handle the nomination of a candidate for her seat according to party regulations.

KMT spokesman Lee Chien-jung (李建榮) said the KMT found the development regrettable, adding that Diane Lee was an exceptional politician.

KMT caucus Deputy Secretary-General Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) also expressed regret and blamed the DPP for forcing Lee to resign “in such a savage way.”

“Putting the citizenship controversy aside, she is a very hardworking lawmaker, but the DPP humiliated her ... If I were her, I would not be able to take it either,” Lo said.

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