The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday denied that there were any irregularities pertaining to a visit to Taiwan last year by US Representative Bill Owens.
The ministry followed the rules on hosting visiting foreign dignitaries, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) said at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee.
Some US lawmakers, such as Owens, also visit Taiwan at the invitation of private institutions, Yang said in response to questions on the issue by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators.
Owens and his wife arrived on Dec. 28 last year for a four-day visit, which was paid for by the Taipei-based Chinese Culture University, US media said.
However, a report in the US on Thursday last week said that lobbyists from the New York firm Park Strategies, which works for the Taiwanese government, had organized the trip.
This violated US congressional ethics rules that prohibit members from participating in trips arranged by lobbyists, according to the report that was co-published by independent news organization ProPublica and the news Web site Politico.
The day after the report appeared, Owens offered to reimburse the university the US$22,132 spent on his trip to Taiwan, but said the visit did not break any rules, Politico said.
“In an abundance of caution, and to avoid any question about the purpose of the travel, which was to bring jobs to New York [state], or about whether it was appropriate for the sponsor to pay for its costs, I am reimbursing the sponsor personally for the full value of the trip,” Owens was quoted by Politico as saying in a prepared statement.
In an interview with North Country Public Radio on Friday, the US lawmaker acknowledged that the first impetus for this specific trip “came from Park Strategies.”
DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) asked why Owens did not meet any representatives from Chinese Culture University since it was the school that invited him.
Department of North American Affairs Director-General Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達) said Owens did meet the dean of the university to promote bilateral exchanges.
Owens’ visit to Taiwan was fully in line with legal procedures, Linghu told media on the sidelines of the committee meeting.