The nation’s representative office in the US said it has been working hard to secure the early release of a Taiwanese diplomat who has been detained there since November for allegedly overworking and underpaying two Filipino housekeepers.
Jacob Chang (張大同), deputy head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US, said on Thursday that the office has been in daily contact with the US Department of State and the Washington headquarters of the American Institute in Taiwan over the issue.
“We hope the case can be closed as soon as possible so that Jacqueline Liu (劉姍姍), former director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Kansas City, can be released before the Lunar New Year,” Chang said.
The country’s deputy representative in the US said he and Jack Yang (楊巨中), the new director-general of TECO in Kansas City, visited Liu a day earlier.
“She lives in a single room and is a bit thinner, but in good spirits,” Chang said.
“Liu told us that her life at the detention center is smooth and that she is grateful for the government’s concern for her,” Chang said, adding that Liu had expressed her hope for an early return to Taiwan.
Chang said the representative office will continue negotiations with the US authorities for Liu’s release ahead of Lunar New Year’s Eve, which falls on Jan. 22 this year.
However, the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri said on Thursday that the sentencing date for Liu’s case has not yet been set.
After Liu was arrested and detained on Nov. 10, her lawyer negotiated a plea bargain agreement under which Liu would plead guilty to the charges and then be sentenced to time served and pay US$80,044 in restitution to her two victims, before being deported.
The office of US District Judge David Gregory Kays did not immediately approve the plea agreement at a Nov. 18 hearing, leaving Liu in limbo.
At the time, Liu’s lawyer, James Wirken, said the sentencing hearing — at which the judge will rule on the plea agreement — would be held within about three months.
The case sparked a dispute between Taiwan and the US over the scope of diplomatic immunity. Taiwan has said that Liu should be granted immunity, while the US said that Liu’s immunity only applies to duties performed within the remit of her authorized functions.
Jason Yuan (袁健生), Taiwan’s top representative in the US, said on New Year’s Day that the two countries will restart talks on a bilateral diplomatic immunity pact signed in 1980, as both sides agree that the accord is far from comprehensive.