Apologies for the light blogging. I’ve take a leave of absence from the university for a semester, and the paperwork proved burdensome — though, like all Taiwan paperwork, once you get those ducks in a row, things zoomed along nicely. So, my income has fallen drastically… if anyone wants to buy a couple of teenagers, they can have ‘em for a song…

Meanwhile, I’ve missed the fun with Green Cards…it seems KMT Presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou once had a Green Card and permanent residency in the US. This has become a campaign issue. From the Taipei Times today:

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank (謝長廷) said yesterday that his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rival Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) recently contacted a US official to sort out whether he has a valid US green card.

Hsieh said that Ma was now seeking help from the US to vindicate the “lies” he told on the green card issue.

“I know for sure Ma reached a US official. Now Ma needs the US to do him a favor. I hope he will not make any promises unfavorable to Taiwan,” Hsieh said.

For the fourth day in a row, Hsieh yesterday continued to question Ma’s credibility over the green card issue.

As he promised two days ago, Hsieh disclosed the number of Ma’s green card at a press conference. He said the information was provided to him by a supporter, and that Ma was granted a card numbered “A XXX30786″ on Aug. 26, 1977, in New York.

There’s been “why should anyone care?” commentary flying around, but I think the issue here isn’t the Green Card, but the underlying social issue it represents. Recall that when Ma went overseas to study, few Taiwanese were allowed to go. In the bad old days they searched your home and investigated you before they let you out to study abroad, and the KMT employed fake students and students on Party scholarships to spy on fellow students abroad. Ma had one of those scholarships, and has been accused of being a student spy.

The Green Card issue is simply the DPP’s way of reminding its audience of Ma’s privileged background — playing, I think, to the working class resentments of its audience.

UPDATE: a couple of good comments below, and this one in an email:

….Rather, I think the DPP is doing something quite a bit more subtle, and highly intelligent. They are pointing out a flaw in Ma’s character–his tendency to overreact and become ultra defensive to every conceivable perceived crisis. The green card by itself is trivial, he should have batted that back in their faces with ease. But he completely froze with indecisiveness, and couldn’t get his message straight.

If Ma performs this poorly on such an insignificant issue, something that he should have immediately been able to clear up, how would he respond in a real crisis, with real stakes for everyone in Taiwan? These are precisely the doubts the DPP intends to sow among the undecided. And it worked perfectly. After this dies down, they will confront him with further crises of escalating importance.

This is why I think that Hsieh has to be considered the front runner.

Thanks for all the great comments, guys. It makes things worthwhile. And another one in the email:

First: The green card is important in highlighting the double standard held against the DPP. Remember the uproar over Chen’s grandson being born in the US? Ma’s daughter, a US citizen, can immediately sponsor her parents for immigration to become naturalized US citizens. By the time Chen’s grandson could sponsor anyone Chen would be in his late 70’s.

Ma’s sisters and kid are all US citizens — but a common KMT attack on Chen is that he is going to flee to the US. Yet I must remind that Chen had gotten in trouble because of DPP attacks on KMTers for holding Green Cards. As this old article notes:

A group of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers ironically mocked the president, saying that he would soon be a “grandfather of an American” if the seven-months pregnant Huang Jui-ching (黃睿靚) did not return to Taiwan.

“We strongly suggest that the president use the presidential jet `Air Force One’ to bring Huang back to Taiwan,” KMT Legislator Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) said.

The wrangling over dual nationality of members of politicians’ families started back in 2000 when Chen attacked People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), whose his son Soong Chen-yuan (宋鎮遠) is a US citizen, during the presidential election campaign.

Chen had said that Taiwanese did not want “a father of an American” to be a president.