Diane Lee gives up authority, salary

PROTESTING INNOCENCE: Lee said the US State Department must finish a review, but a US official was quoted as saying the department considered the case closed

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Dec 26, 2008 - Page 1

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Diane Lee (李慶安), whom the US State Department has found to possess US citizenship, yesterday “suspended” her legislative authority, but maintained her innocence and said the US State Department must complete a review of documents.

“[I] have caused great controversy over the past two days. I do not intend to waste the resources of media outlets or become a burden to the KMT and other party members,” Lee told a press conference yesterday afternoon.

“I will immediately suspend my legislative power and stop receiving my salary. But I will continue to serve people in my electoral district,” Lee said.

However, Lee added that “everyone should wait for the result of the review by the US State Department, since this case involves US law.”

An official with the US State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs was quoted by the Central News Agency yesterday as saying that the US considered the case closed.

Lee’s announcement came one day after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮) publicized the US’ reply to the legislature’s inquiry on whether any lawmakers had US citizenship.

The legislature sent confidential copies of the US reply to all lawmakers on Wednesday.

The document’s last paragraph says: “Our records reveal that Wen-chi Kung, born 10/18/1957, and Ching-An Lee, born 01/17/1959, have previously been documented as US citizens with US passports and no subsequent loss of US citizenship has been documented.”

On Dec. 16, Kung was found to have been confused with another person whose name had the same Romanized spelling.

Lee conceded that she was the other person named in the US’ reply before Chai had disclosed the document, but reiterated her claim that she had automatically lost her US citizenship when she was sworn in as a Taipei city councilor in 1994.

Lee’s announcement yesterday did not shield her from criticism by DPP lawmakers.

DPP caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) told a press conference that the caucus would urge Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) to immediately remove Lee from her legislative seat.

The caucus demands that Lee repay her income in full from her years as a public servant and be prosecuted, Lai said.

Lai said that Lee was attempting to buy time.

A criminal investigation should be launched into the case immediately, he said.

“You are the most shameless person in our society,” DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) said after Lee called on the public to wait for a “complete” US State Department review.

In March, Lee became the focus of a controversy over lawmakers holding dual citizenship after a tabloid reported that she had a US passport.

On May 23, the Legislative Yuan launched an investigation into whether any lawmakers had dual citizenship, asking the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

The Nationality Act (國籍法) bans government officials from holding dual nationality.

Those who possess dual citizenship must renounce their foreign nationality before assuming office and provide evidence of the renunciation within one year of taking office.

The legislature is scheduled to discuss today whether Lee should lose her seat.

KMT caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) vowed to be impartial.

“The KMT would never violate the law to shield [Diane Lee] or protect someone who does something wrong,” Lin said.

He said the legislature would determine whether Lee should retain her seat “in an open and fair manner.”

But he also criticized the DPP, saying that it had failed to deal with former Taiwan Solidarity Union legislator George Liu (劉寬平), who said he had applied to renounce his US citizenship late last year, although his term ended last January.

“Given [the mistake about] Kung’s [citizenship], it is possible that the probe may have failed to identify some legislators with dual citizenship,” Lin said.

Lin said two DPP legislators are dual nationals, but declined to name them.

KMT caucus deputy secretary-general Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said the KMT should decide as soon as possible how to deal with Lee, while KMT Legislator Shyu Jong-shyoung (徐中雄) said the legislature must pass a resolution to deal with Lee’s case.

“Though painful, this must be done,” Shyu said.

Wang said the US must clearly say whether Lee’s taking an oath in Taiwan as a public servant had revoked her US citizenship: “It was the US, not us, that provided an ambiguous [answer].”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA AND STAFF WRITER