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June 23, 2017

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Legislator Lee Ching-an given an ultimatum on nationality

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng asked ruling Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lee Ching-an yesterday to produce a document certifying the loss of her U.S. citizenship by Jan. 31.

He further asked U.S. authorities to clarify if Lee lost her U.S. citizenship as early as 1994 when she was first elected to public office in Taiwan, which according to U.S. legislation is not "ultimately determinative."

Wang made the remarks in response to calls by legislators from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to immediately remove Lee from her post.

Kuan Bi-ling, a whip of the DPP legislative caucus, urged the Central Election Commission to nullify Lee's four past elections as legislator.

She also demanded that the Ministry of the Interior impose an overseas travel ban on Lee and that the Ministry of Justice order a provisional seizure of her assets, failing which the DPP would file a complaint with the relevant authorities against the three agencies.

According to the Nationality Act, dual citizenship is strictly forbidden for Taiwanese public office-holders, who are required to renounce their foreign citizenship before assuming public office and to obtain a certificate testifying to the loss of citizenship within one year of their inauguration.

In addition, former DPP Legislator Chiang Chao-yi charged Lee with evading NT$10 million in U.S. taxes. He argued that Lee's salaries from public office in Taiwan are taxable income in the United States.

Chiang estimated that Lee received a total NT$110 million from her public office jobs since 1994.

In the face of mounting pressure, Lee announced on Thursday that she would temporarily step down from office and stop receiving her salary until the U.S. authorities release the "final outcome" of their investigation into her U.S. citizenship status.

She admitted obtaining 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 bases leading to possible loss of U.S. citizenship.

Replying to Taiwan's inquiry on the citizenship status of it's sitting legislators, the U.S. State Department said in a recent letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) that Lee "has previously been documented as a U.S. citizen with a U.S. passport and that no subsequent loss of U.S. citizenship has been documented."

The State Department, however, also says that U.S. citizens serving in a foreign government "may have committed an expatriating act if they do so with the intent to relinquish their U.S. nationality."

"While the Department (of State) has not made any determination regarding loss of nationality 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. nationality. Any such determination would be retroactive to the date of the expatriating act," the letter reads.

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