The government is to give explanations to a US court by Jan. 25 about a civil lawsuit brought against President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for allegedly forcing Kinmen authorities to back out of a plan to erect a “Goddess of Democracy” statue in Taiwan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesperson Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said yesterday.
Hsia yesterday denied media reports that a US court last month handed down a verdict demanding that Ma pay expatriate Chinese artist Chen Weiming (陳維明) US$2.2 million in compensation for the case.
The civil case is still ongoing, according to Hsia, who added that the Taipei Economic and Culture Office in New York has been preparing a formal statement of defense.
Chen in July last year sued Ma and Kinmen County Culture Affairs Bureau Director Li Hsi-lung (李錫隆) in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York for US$2.2 million in punitive damages, over alleged breach of contract and interference of business.
According to Chen, the American Chinese Statue of Democracy Foundation signed a three-year joint commission contract with Kinmen County on Jan. 17 last year to jointly create a 64m-high sculpture on the shore of Kinmen Island facing China, but the Kinmen County Government unilaterally revoked the contract only days later.
Chen accused Ma of succumbing to political pressure from China and forcing the Kinmen County Government to revoke the contract.
Following a court document released on Dec. 13, various media have reported that the court ruled in favor of Chen against Ma and Lee, because the defendants were absent from the trial.
Hsia denied the media reports, saying the US court has agreed to a request filed by the representative office to delay start of the trial to Jan. 25.
The court has not yet handed down a verdict, Hsia said.
The Dec. 13 court document was issued by clerk of court Ruby Krajick and indicated that default of defendants was noted by the court, as Krajick certified that neither defendant has filed an answer or otherwise moved as to the complaint.
Hsia said the court clerk certified that Ma and Lee have not responded to Chen’s complaint within the time period specified in the summons, because she “failed to notice that there were some flaws in delivery of court documents” to the representative office. He did not elaborate.
In the statement of defense, Taiwan will raise sovereignty immunity as a major point to argue that the case falls outside the jurisdiction of a US court, Hsia said.