Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday defended himself against criticism from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that he was trying to shield Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Diane Lee (李慶安) from questions over her US citizenship status.
The Nationality Act (國籍法) stipulates that anyone holding foreign citizenship is barred from serving as a public official in Taiwan.
Wang, a KMT member, said he did not have the authority to determine Lee’s qualifications as a lawmaker until a resolution empowering him to do so has been passed in the legislature’s plenary session.
“I do not have the authority without the resolution. If I did, I would already have taken care of the matter. I wouldn’t have waited until everyone expressed concerns about it,” Wang said.
The Nationality Act states that the legislature has the authority to relieve any lawmaker with dual citizenship from duty, but it does not specify whether the speaker can make the decision alone or whether a resolution by the plenary session is required.
The Chinese-language Next Magazine had reported that Lee possessed US citizenship and said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had received confirmation about this from the US, a claim the ministry denied on Wednesday.
Lee denied that she held US citizenship and threatened to sue the magazine. She had said previously that she obtained permanent residency in the US in 1985 and citizenship in 1991, but later gave up her US citizenship after becoming a public official.
The DPP caucus reported Lee’s case to the Taipei Prosecutors’ Office for investigation in March.
If the allegation is proven to be true, she would be forced to return the salary she received as a Taipei City councilor from 1994 to 1998 and as a legislator since 1998, an amount estimated at NT$100 million (US$3.29 million).
Wang said yesterday that the legislature had referred two related proposals — one by the DPP to investigate the nationality status of all lawmakers and the other by the KMT that would include all government officials — to cross-party negotiation.
He said that the legislature would process Lee’s case as soon as the judiciary completes the investigation.
Meanwhile, Lee was absent from the legislature yesterday but issued a statement rebutting the allegation again.
“I think these people who have raised the question again and again do not understand the [US] law at all,” she said, adding that she would leave the matter to the judiciary to resolve.
At a press conference yesterday, the DPP caucus said Lee had never produced official documentation proving that she had abandoned her US citizenship.
“The Nationality Law stipulates that a civil servant who has been in possession of foreign citizenship must present an official document within one year of being sworn in that proves he or she has abandoned the foreign citizenship,” DPP deputy caucus whip Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) said. “But she [Lee] never did.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JIMMY CHUANG