The pan-blue representative office in Washington on Friday threatened to take legal action in the US against Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) and any others involved in what it said was a leak of private information regarding representative-designate to Washington Jason Yuan’s (袁健生) application for a US green card.
The disclosure, it said, is a violation of US law.
At the same time the office, formally called the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-People First Party (PFP) Representative Office (KPRO), issued a press release conceding that Yuan had been applying for a US green card since he opened the office in 2004, but said he had to do so to secure a work permit that would allow him to stay in Washington and run the office.
The KPRO statement also called into question the allegiance of the DPP’s liaison officer in Washington.
The press release said the KPRO was established to “balance the DPP lobbyist in DC, who is a US citizen. To whom does he owe his loyalty?”
While not mentioning him by name, it is understood the statement refers to Michael Fonte, who has been the DPP liaison officer in Washington since August 2002 and immediately challenged the pan-blue allegation.
Fonte refuted the KPRO allegation as comparing “apples to oranges.”
“I am a liaison, not a representative,” Fonte said.
“My role has been to explain to the US side what DPP positions are, and to explain to the DPP what the US positions are. It’s not a question of allegiance to one or the other. It’s a question of being an information conduit, of being a good analyst,” he said.
Yuan’s deputy, Jacob Chang (張大同), told the Taipei Times that Yuan had to apply for the green card because there was no existing organization in Washington that could sponsor Yuan to work in the US as is usually required for a work permit.
Applying for the green card would allow him to work in Washington pending a decision on the green card application, which could take years, Chang said.
In Taipei on Friday, Kuan said that Yuan had applied for a green card, and also disclosed his so-called “application reference number,” also known informally as the “A number” because it begins with the letter “A.” That number, given to an applicant when he or she seeks a green card, or permanent residency in the US, is considered secret.
The KPRO office said in its press release that Yuan had never received a green card, and that he last week formally notified the US government that he would terminate the application if he went to work for the Taiwanese government.
Yuan, a long-term Foreign Ministry official and former official of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in Washington, was tapped by Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) last month to become the next TECRO representative, succeeding Joseph Wu (吳釗燮).
Yuan is well-known in Washington among long term congressmembers, government officials and others for his previous stints with TECRO, and when he arrived in Washington secured a substantial office suite a block away from the White House.
Chang said that Yuan verbally notified the US last month of the possibility that “if he went back to Taiwan” to work for the government, he would terminate his “application to live in the US.” He formalized that in writing last week, but the notification did not mention the likelihood that he would be named to TECRO, since the State Department has not yet signed off on the move.
That is not expected to occur until the middle of next month at the earliest, since he must first go through a rigorous background check that usually takes several weeks.
Chang would not disclose the name of the US attorneys the office hired.
He said if the suit were successful, the US could block the accused from entering the US or detain them if they tried to enter the country.
Since the two countries do not have an extradition treaty, it is unclear whether the US could take action against them in Taiwan.
Stating that Yuan’s loyalty to Taiwan is “without doubt,” the KPRO statement said Yuan holds Taiwan nationality and has never been a citizen of the US or any other country.
On January 15, 2004, he retired from the Foreign Ministry after 41 years of service and was retained as the pan-blue Washington representative. His KPRO business card also describes him as “ambassador.”
At the time, it was widely assumed that he was being groomed as a successor to thenTECRO representative Chen Chien-jen (程建人) if the KMT won the 2004 presidential election. Yuan has consistently denied that he was seeking the TECRO post.
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