Fri, Jun 06, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Green cards could be banned for officials

NOT SO GREEN Francisco Ou said he plans to launch a comprehensive investigation to see how many of the current Ministry of Foreign Affairs personnel hold green cards

By Shih Hsiu-Chuan and Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The government would consider amending laws to prohibit officials from holding permanent resident status in other countries if the public considers this to amount to disloyalty to the country, Executive Yuan Spokeswoman Vanessa Shih (史亞平) said yesterday.

“Loyalty should not be a problem for officials holding green cards because a green card is a travel document,” said Shih when asked to comment on the apology offered by Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) yesterday for having applied for and received a US green card while he was the country’s representative to Guatemala in 2005.

“If there is a high degree of consensus that being a green card holder is disloyal, the ban should be written into law,” Shih said.

Dual nationality is not permissible under the Civil Servants Work Act (公務人員服務法) and Nationality Law (國籍法). The law, however, does not cover green card status or other permanent resident status.

Ou, previously insisting that he should not have to apologize over the issue as he did not violate any law, called a provisional press conference yesterday afternoon and offered his apology “for all the troubles I might have caused.”

Ou said that in a meeting with Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) yesterday morning, the premier asked him to “think over” what he had done wrong.

“After contemplating the issue, I realized I have made some errors in the process and I want to apologize to the public and to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Liu for the troubles that I might have caused,” Ou said at a press conference.

Although apologetic, Ou deflected criticism that his loyalty was questionable, saying his willful renunciation of his US permanent residency immediately after he agreed to serve as the foreign minister is enough to demonstrate his patriotism to Taiwan.

Ou, a career diplomat of 44 years, repeated that he had obtained a green card because he had planned to settle in the US after his retirement, which he had planned to do in 2005 when he reached 65. But he decided to extend his public service beyond 2005 to help cement Taiwan-Guatemala ties, which appeared to be shaky at the time, he said.

Ou said he plans to launch a comprehensive probe to check how many of the current Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) personnel hold green cards. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus, however, yesterday continued to condemn Ou over the green card issue, with DPP legislative caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) describing as “ridiculous” Ou’s possession of US permanent residency during his term as the nation’s ambassador to Guatemala in 2005.

In related news, Chuang Chin-kuo (莊進國) of the Central Personnel Administration said yesterday that the country’s representative to Switzerland, George Liu (劉寬平), is now in the process of renouncing his US nationality, as is the vice chairman of the Overseas Compatriots Affairs Commission (OCAC), Hsueh Sheng-hwa (薛盛華), who has Canadian citizenship.

Chuang said Liu and Hsueh are the only two officials in the administration that hold foreign citizenship.

Hsueh said in a press release yesterday that he had renounced his Canadian citizenship on May 15 at the Canadian representative office in Taipei before assuming office.

Director of Personnel Department of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Wu Chi-an (吳基安) said Liu surrendered his US citizenship last November before he took up office in Switzerland and Liu will go back to the American Institute in Taiwan to complete the process this month.

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