Taiwan’s representative to the US Jason Yuan (袁健生) said on Tuesday that a US green card issued to him in February was the result of administrative errors by the US authorities and that the card was returned and annulled last month.
Yuan’s statement followed media reports that he was granted permanent residency in the US after being sworn in for his current position.
The Nationality Act (國籍法) stipulates that government officials are prohibited from holding foreign permanent residency or citizenship.
Chinese-language Next Magazine reported in its latest edition that the representative received a green card three months ago. The card was not invalidated and destroyed until last month, the magazine said.
The report said Yuan applied for permanent residency in April 2004 when he was the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) representative to the US. In the past, Yuan has said that he had applied for a green card so he could work legally in the US.
The report said Yuan was appointed to his current post on Aug. 4 last year. On Aug. 26, the US government notified Yuan that it had approved his application, but did not mail him the green card until February.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Yuan admitted applying for a green card in 2004. But when the KMT won the election last May, he told the US government that if he were to return to serve as a Taiwanese official, he would need to terminate his application process, he said.
He said he instructed his lawyer to contact the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) to make the termination official in June last year.
He said he was stunned when he received a notice from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in September telling him his application had been approved. He said that, through his lawyer, Yuan confirmed with the US once again his intention to drop his application.
The representative said he was stunned once more when he received his green card in the mail in February, after which he immediately asked his lawyer to contact US immigration about the “mistake.”
Yuan said that on April 3 his lawyer met with a US immigration official in the Baltimore office where the US official admitted to the blunder, destroyed the card on the spot and signed a document confirming Yuan had officially relinquished his permanent resident status.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) said yesterday that the situation resulted from an administrative error.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) was fully informed of the issue, Ou said.
“Yuan has released a public statement which clearly states that he has never obtained US permanent residency. On his own initiative, he requested his application process be terminated last June when he was appointed as Taiwan’s representative to the US,” said deputy foreign minister David Lin (林永樂) at the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee.
Lin added that MOFA “would never lie to cover for any of its people.”
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) questioned the validity of Yuan’s claims and cast doubt on his loyalty to Taiwan.
Last August, DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) published Yuan’s green card application number as “evidence” of his intention to become an American.
Yuan threatened to sue Kuan for invasion of privacy. However, he has yet to take legal action against her.
“If what Kuan said was wrong, then why hasn’t Yuan filed a lawsuit against her as he said he would?” Tsai asked.
Kuan said yesterday she holds credible evidence that Yuan’s permanent residency is still valid and demanded MOFA replace him immediately.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said he received an overseas call from Yuan shortly before the committee meeting.
“Of course it is a blunder on the part of US immigration. Why would the US notify someone of the approval of his green card application when he has already officially relinquished the process?” he asked.
Yuan had done his part by requesting the termination of the application, while the rest was up to the US, he added.
Justin Chou (周守訓), chairperson of the Foreign and National Defense Committee said that based on his experience of US agencies, it was very likely that the US made a mistake on Yuan’s application.
“I spent a number of years in the US and I know that the US government often makes mistakes. They can even make a mistake on a person’s social security number or translation of one’s name,” he said.
Chou said it would be illogical for the US to agree to Yuan’s appointment as Taiwan’s representative if he were a green card holder.
The American Institute in Taiwan declined to comment, saying the US government does not openly discuss an individual’s immigration process out of respect for privacy.
Meanwhile, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said yesterday that the accusation that Yuan possessed a US green card had been a mistake for which the US should take the blame.
Liu made the remarks when asked for comment in an interview with the state-owned Central News Agency yesterday morning.
KMT Legislator Sun Ta-chien (孫大千) urged Yuan to publicize the documents to prove that he had followed the process in renouncing his green card.
But KMT Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) said Yuan should step down over the controversy.
“This controversy is much more serious than the controversy surrounding [former minister without portfolio] Chu Yun-peng [朱雲鵬],” Chiu said.
Chu stepped down late last month for skipping work to go out on dates during office hours.
DPP Spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said Yuan’s green card incident was a “big scandal” for the government and Yuan should “step down immediately” if the government still had a sense of shame.
Cheng said the KMT government had discovered high-ranking officials and party legislators were US citizens, but that it had defended them and not expressed remorse over the matter.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA, FLORA WANG, SHIH HSIU-CHUAN
AND RICH CHANG
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