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Taiwan KMT lawmaker withdraws from party over citizenship issue

A file photo of KMT Legislator Diane Lee. (file photo) Lee announced her decision on Dec. 30 to withdraw from the party over a controversy surrounding...

A file photo of KMT Legislator Diane Lee. (file photo) Lee announced her decision on Dec. 30 to withdraw from the party over a controversy surrounding...

Ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Diane Lee (李慶安) announced her decision Tuesday to withdraw from the party over a controversy surrounding her citizenship.

Lee, who voluntarily suspended her legislator status on Dec. 25 over the dual citizenship dispute, said in a statement that although U.S. authorities have yet to release the "final outcome" of their investigation into her U.S. citizenship status, she has decided to quit the KMT lest the issue tarnish the party's reputation.

Lee's eligibility as a legislator has been challenged since it was reported early this year that she never officially renounced her U.S. citizenship even though she had been in public office in Taiwan since 1994.

The Nationality Act forbids Republic of China nationals who hold foreign citizenship from assuming public office and requires officials holding foreign citizenship to be removed from their posts.

The opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been urging the KMT, which holds more than a two-thirds majority in the legislature, not to continue to cover up what it called Lee's violation of the nationality regulations.

As Lee can only be stripped of her legislative seat in this case by a majority vote in the lawmaking body, she opted to voluntarily surrender her KMT membership to safeguard the reputation of her party.

Upon learning of Lee's renunciation of her party membership, Juan Kang-meng (阮剛猛), head of the KMT’s Evaluation and Discipline Committee, said the committee will meet Wednesday as originally scheduled, but the agenda will focus on general party issues instead of a review of Lee's case.

Lee admitted that she obtained U.S. Citizenship in 1991, but argued that she "legally" lost her status as a U.S. citizen when she was sworn in as a Taipei city councilor in 1994, citing U.S. law which lists serving in a foreign government as one of the legal conditions for the loss of citizenship.

Under pressure from the DPP, the Legislative Yuan requested the MOFA in May to help verify with foreign governments whether any of the sitting legislators were holding dual citizenship.

The MOFA received a reply from the U.S. in early December and the letter was distributed as a classified document to all legislators Dec. 24.

While saying there is no record of loss of U.S. citizenship by Lee, the letter also states that “U.S. citizens who hold the citizenship of a foreign country and who accept employment with the government of that country that requires an oath, affirmation or declaration of allegiance may have committed an expatriating act if they do so with the intent to relinquish their U.S. citizenship."

"While the Department (of State) has not made any determination regarding loss of citizenship for the individual named above, it could do so based on evidence that he or she committed a potentially expatriating act with the intention of relinquishing U.S. citizenship. Any such determination would be retroactive to the date of the expatriating act," the letter reads.

On Dec.25, Lee claimed that a report on her U.S. citizenship status delivered recently by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on her case was "not final" and urged the public to wait for the final result before censuring her.

Updated : 2021-05-07 00:25 GMT+08:00