The Diane Lee (李慶安) case broke last week when a local tabloid, Next magazine, reported that Lee, a prominent KMT legislator, had US citizenship. It is illegal for ROC elected officials to hold office while being a citizen of another country, so Lee was immediately threatened with the loss of her seat in Taipei city’s sixth district and lots of cash. Denying everything, she threatened to sue….

She said she obtained permanent residency in the US in 1985 and citizenship in 1991, but later gave up her citizenship.

Article 20 of the Nationality Law (國籍法), which took effect on June 20, 2001, states that foreign citizens are prohibited from holding government office.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus reported Lee’s case to the Taipei Prosecutors’ Office for investigation after the Next article in March.

Lee would have to return her salary as a Taipei City council from 1994 to 1998 and as a legislator since 1998 — estimated at NT$100 million (US$3.2 million) — if the allegation is true.

She would also lose her job as a legislator, forcing a by-election in Taipei City’s sixth district.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied Next’s allegations that it investigated Lee’s citizenship. Although the case has only surfaced recently, apparently the DPP referred the case to Taipei prosecutors back in March.

The DPP caucus reported Lee’s case to the Taipei Prosecutors’ Office for investigation in March.

….

Wang said yesterday that the legislature had referred two related proposals — one by the DPP to investigate the nationality status of all lawmakers and the other by the KMT that would include all government officials — to cross-party negotiation.

The parties agreed on the KMT version of the bill on Friday. Dual citizenship is not exactly unknown among the governing classes; given that the greater number of government officials are KMT, it would seem that any investigation of citizenship would punish that party more. Meanwhile the US has issued almost the same characterizations of the Lee’s citizenship issue that it did for Ma’s alleged Green card:

The Central News Agency (CNA) yesterday cited an unnamed U.S. State Department official as saying that American citizens do not automatically lose their citizenship just because they are serving in a foreign government.

Any U.S. nationals who want to give up their citizenship must complete all formalities, which include the signing of an oath of renunciation before a U.S. diplomatic or consular officer at a U.S. embassy or consulate, the official was cited as saying.

“Renunciations that do not meet the conditions described above have no legal effect,” the official said.

The U.S. official explained that although serving in a foreign government is one of the legal conditions for the loss of nationality, the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act also states that such an act must be performed “voluntarily and with intent to relinquish U.S. citizenship.”

Therefore, the formalities must be completed, he said.

In other words you can’t “automatically” lose your citizenship — you have to take serious and purposeful steps to give it up. Unless Lee has carried out the process with the US government, she has not lost her citizenship. And if she has US citizenship, she’s toast….

Who benefits? Well, Lien Chan’s son appears to be the likely KMT candidate in case of a by-election.

A son of former Kuomintang (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan has downplayed speculation that he stands a good chance of succeeding a legislator who may lose her seat because of allegedly possessing dual nationality.

Lien Sheng-wen said until the judicial authorities have made a ruling against KMT Legislator Diane Lee over her alleged dual nationality case, the by-election is not a real issue.

All I will say about the younger Lien is that he is a fine illustration of the old saying that “the apple does not fall far from the tree.”

Lee was one of the legislators who originally defected from the KMT to the PFP and then went back again a couple of years ago, and one of the loudest voices calling for a reconciliation of the two parties. At one time it looked as though she might be headed for greater posts, having contemplated a run at Taipei mayor. She is the daughter of the very influential KMT official Lee Huan, one of the Old Guard KMT who opposed the accession of Lee Teng-hui to the KMT Chairmanship.