- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TAIWAN’S AMBIGUITY

The arrest of a Taiwan official in Kansas City, Mo., is raising the contentious issue of legal immunity for representatives of the island nation that has remained in a sort of diplomatic twilight zone for three decades.

Taiwan’s premier, Wu Den-yih, and its chief envoy to the United States, Jason Yuan, insist that Taiwan representatives enjoy full diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution, even though the U.S. has only unofficial relations with the country, formally known as the Republic of China.

Taiwan’s stance is clear in insisting on diplomatic immunity for Liu,” Mr. Yuan said, referring to Hsien-Hsien “Jacquelin” Liu, Taiwan’s representative in Kansas City.

The FBI arrested Ms. Liu last week and charged her with fraud in the hiring of a female Filipino housekeeper, who claims that Ms. Liu mistreated her.

Ms. Liu is in custody and is due for a bail hearing Wednesday, when her U.S. lawyer will argue that the charges should be dismissed because she enjoys diplomatic immunity.

The State Department and the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Missouri say that Taiwan envoys are entitled to diplomatic immunity while performing to their official duties but abusing a private worker does not qualify.

Ms. Liu “does enjoy a status similar to that of consular officers, which means that she would have immunity only for acts performed within the scope of her authorized functions,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

The diplomatic disagreement centers on a document called the Agreement on Privileges, Exemptions and Immunities, signed between Taiwan and U.S. officials in 1980 to provide some level of protection to Taiwanese representatives in the United States and U.S. envoys in Taiwan.

A Taiwan official, who asked not to be identified, conceded that the Liu case is “quite ambiguous,” much like the broader relation between the United States and Taiwan.

Washington recognized the Republic of China as the sole representative of the Chinese people until Jan. 1, 1979, when President Jimmy Carter recognized the communist government on mainland China.

Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act to maintain a level of diplomatic contacts and to provide for the defense of Taiwan against threats from Beijing, which claims the democratic island as part of China.

Taiwan, which lost its seat at the United Nations in 1971, has full diplomatic relations today with only 23 countries. It has informal relations with 122.

The FBI on Thursday arrested Ms. Liu on charges of illegally hiring the Filipino woman, whose name was not disclosed in court documents. The FBI said Ms. Liu agreed to pay the housekeeper $1,240 a month but paid her less than a third of that amount. The housekeeper was hired to work 40 hours a week, but Ms. Liu made her work more than twice as long. She also confined the housekeeper to her home in Leawood, Kan., and confiscated her passport, according to the FBI.

The housekeeper was hired in March, escaped from Ms. Liu in August and then went to the authorities, the FBI said.

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