Fri, Jun 20, 2008 - Page 3 News List

ANALYSIS: Public should join Nationality Law debate

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

With the dispute raging over the issue of government officials holding foreign residency cards, political observers have outlined the need for public hearings and rational discussion before any amendment to the Nationality Law (國籍法) is put to a vote in the legislature.

The issue came to public attention earlier this month after Next Magazine reported that Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) obtained a US green card in 2005 during his stint as Taiwan’s representative to Guatemala.

Since then, the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration has been on the defensive as more Cabinet officials, including Cabinet Secretary-General Hsueh Hsiang-chuan (薛香川), were suspected of having permanent foreign residency cards.

The Nationality Law only bars government officials from holding dual citizenship. There are no regulations governing officials who posses foreign residency cards.

While Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) defended the government’s need to recruit people with overseas working experience in an age of globalization and dismissed DPP questions about these officials’ loyalty, he nonetheless launched a probe to look into the status of all high-ranking Cabinet members and overseas representatives. He said that those who were found to possess foreign residency would have to either give it up or leave their positions.

The Presidential Office also unveiled the result of its own investigation into senior office officials under public pressure on June 9. The investigation found that National Security Council (NSC) adviser Chan Man-jung (詹滿容) has a green card, but has said she intended to relinquish it. NSC Deputy Secretary-General Ho Szu-yin (何思因) and Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Kao Lang (高朗) held Canadian maple cards, but gave them up before taking office last month.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus deputy secretary-general Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) has proposed amending the Nationality Law to ban government officials from holding foreign residency and to recall those who failed to give up their foreign status upon assuming office.

DPP deputy caucus whip Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) also proposed a similar bill that would empower the Investigation Bureau to take the initiative to probe public officials’ nationality, foreign residency status and any affiliation with China.

The whole controversy, however, highlighted the nation’s lack of a complete and effective mechanism to verify public officials’ allegiance to the country although related regulations have been in effect for years.

Article 4 of the Civil Service Employment Act (公務人員任用法) stipulates the need for government agencies to check applicants’ character and loyalty before recruitment and empowers these agencies to seek help from the Investigation Bureau to check their loyalty “if necessary.”

The Executive Yuan also established a set of administrative rules in August 2003, the “Special regulations for investigating public officials involved in matters of national security or other important matters of national interest” (涉及國家安全或重大利益公務人員特殊查核辦法) that authorizes government chiefs to request the bureau to check the loyalty of public officials whose positions involves “national security or major national interests” before they are sworn in.

The regulations state that loyalty checks should include their relations with China, their direct relatives’ past political affiliation in other countries, whether they are entitled to citizenship application in other countries, whether they hold foreign residency and whether they hold dual citizenship.

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