Fri, Feb 06, 2009 - Page 4 News List

AIT’s letters back Diane Lee: lawyer

NO IDENTITY CRISIS Lee Yung-jan said his client’s oath of allegiance to the ROC in 1994 and use of her ROC passport proved her desire to give up her US citizenship

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Diane Lee leaves the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office on Jan. 13 after prosecutors questioned her about her alleged dual nationality. Her lawyer said yesterday that letters from the American Institute in Taiwan had backed Lee’s claims that her actions since 1994 had nullified her US citizenship.

PHOTO: CHU PEI-HSIUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Diane Lee’s (李慶安) attorney said the US’ latest explanation of its laws on loss of citizenship backs Lee’s claim that she legally lost her US citizenship when she took public office in Taiwan more than a decade ago.

Lee Yung-jan (李永然) was referring to a Jan. 16 letter from the American Institute in Taiwan’s (AIT) Washington office that stated loss of US citizenship occurs when a citizen “voluntarily commits a statutorily defined potentially expatriating act with the intention of relinquishing US citizenship.”

Lee Yung-jan said Diane Lee’s taking of an oath of allegiance to the Republic of China (ROC) when she took office as a Taipei City councilor in 1994 and her use of her ROC passport to enter and exit the US since then were concrete acts that proved her intent to give up her US citizenship.

“We believe that the latest AIT letter marks a favorable development in the case,” he said.

Diane Lee’s case is on the agenda of the Central Election Commission’s meeting today. It must decide whether her election to public office prior to last year should be nullified. She was sworn in for a fourth legislative term on Feb. 1 last year.

The following month, however, it was discovered that she had never formally renounced her US citizenship, although she had held public office in Taiwan since 1994.

She resigned on Jan. 8 just as groups of civic organizations were preparing to besiege the legislature to protest its failure to act against her.

The Nationality Act (國籍法) requires public officials holding dual citizenship to surrender their foreign citizenship before assuming public office and to obtain a certificate as proof that they had complied with the act within one year of taking office.

The law also requires that those officials who retain foreign citizenship be removed from their posts.

Calls for Diane Lee to be formally relieved of her seat mounted after US authorities, in response to an inquiry from Taiwan, confirmed late last year that she “has previously been documented as a US citizen with a US passport and that no subsequent loss of US citizenship has been documented.”

But in a letter dated Nov. 22 to Taiwan’s representative office in Washington, AIT managing director Barbara Schrage wrote that US citizens serving in a foreign government “may have committed an expatriating act if they do so with the intent to relinquish their US nationality.”

Schrage wrote that while the US Department of State has not made any determination regarding loss of citizenship for any individual Taiwanese lawmaker, “it could do so based on evidence that he or she committed a potentially expatriating act with the intention of relinquishing US nationality.”

Central Election Commission Secretary-General Teng Tien-yu (鄧天祐) said earlier this week that the commission had asked the US to clarify whether Taiwanese lawmakers or city councilors would automatically lose their status as US citizens once they take an oath of office in Taiwan, and whether they need to apply to relinquish their citizenship or have US authorities invalidate their US citizenship.

In a terse letter dated Jan. 16, Schrage replied that as stated in her previous letter, “loss of US citizenship occurs when a citizen voluntarily commits a statutorily defined potentially expatriating act with the intention of relinquishing US citizenship,” political sources said.

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