Taiwan’s representatives in the United States enjoy immunity only for acts performed within the scope of their authorized functions, according to a U.S. Department of State spokesman Saturday.
The official was referring to a controversy over the detention of a Taiwanese diplomat in Kansas City by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on charges of foreign labor fraud.
The detention of Jacqueline Liu, director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City, triggered a strong protest from the Taiwanese authorities.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded that Liu be immediately released unconditionally on the grounds that she enjoys immunity under a bilateral agreement on privileges, exemptions and immunities signed in October 1980.
In a written response to the inquiry about the U.S. stance on the issue, the State Department spokesman said that under the 1980 agreement, Liu enjoys a status similar to that of consular officers.
“She has immunity only for acts performed within the scope of her authorized functions,” the spokeman wrote.
As for questions on the criminal proceedings or the next step in Liu’s case, the U.S. official wrote: “I refer you to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Missouri.”
The report, citing federal prosecutors, said the defendent is believed to be the first foreign representative to face the charge in the United States.
Officials at Taiwan’s representative office in Washington, D.C. said Satruday they are still in talks with the U.S. authorities on Liu’s release but have insisted that the issue should be dealt with through diplmatic channels as Liu enjoys diplomatic immunity.
Both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States have lodged serious protests over Liu’s detention and have demanded her immediate and unconditional release.