Lawsuit against ROC president ongoing in U.S.: official

Washington, Dec. 31 (CNA) Taiwan's representative office in the United States has asked a U.S. court to adjourn a hearing in which President Ma Ying-jeou and a Kinmen county government official are listed as defendants in a breach of contract case. Ma and Lee Hsi-lung, director-general of the county's Cultural Affairs Bureau, were sued by expatriate Chinese artist Chen Weiming on July 5, 2012 at the New York Southern District Court. Chen is seeking US$22 million in punitive damages for breach of contract. Chen claims that he entered a contract with the Kinmen county government Jan. 17 last year to erect a 32-meter statue of the Goddess of Democracy, a defining image of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, on the seashore of Kinmen Island, facing China. But the county government breached the contract less than a day after the contract was signed, Chen said, citing possible interference from the Ma administration as it caved in to pressure from Beijing. Also listed on the defendant list are "John Does and Mary Roes," who were referred to by Chen as unnamed members of the Chinese Communist Party politburo, according to information available on the U.S. Court's Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. Hong Kong's Apple Daily reported recently that the U.S. court has made a default judgment upon Chen's request due to the absence of both defendants at a hearing, meaning that the defendants will need to pay the amount of requested damages. However, an official at Taiwan's representative office in the U.S., who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, rebutted the report Monday, saying that "the legal papers were served in a flawed way" and it has asked for an adjournment. The court accepted the adjournment request Dec. 20, officials said, adding that they will propose "sovereign immunity" to the court when the hearing is held. According to information available on the PACER system, a request for a pre-motion conference was filed with Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald Dec. 19 "to vacate the clerk's notation of a default (judgement) for good cause" and for "an adjournment of a return date until Jan. 25, 2013" to continue Chen's request for a default judgment. (By Liao Han-yuan and Ann Chen)