MOFA defends detained Kansas City official, reiterates immunity claim

The China Post news staff

The China Post news staff–The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday defended the conduct of Jacqueline Liu, its chief representative to Kansas City, Missouri, the United States, while continuing to reiterate its claim for the immunity of its representatives to the U.S. despite the absence of official ties.

Liu, director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City, Missouri, was handcuffed and apprehended on Thursday, Nov. 10, by agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over allegations that she had ill-treated her Filipina housekeeper. As of Monday, Nov. 14, Liu had remained in U.S. custody. Speaking at the Legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Thomas Hou Ping-fu (侯平福) first said there was indeed a discrepancy between the agreed upon monthly salary of US$1,240 and the amount actually paid out, which was US$590, and that the MOFA was investigating it. If the difference was pocketed by Liu, it is a case of graft, several lawmakers reminded Hou, who then changed his testimony again. “The monthly salary stated in the contract is US$1,240, but Liu is reimbursed US$590, and the amount reported to the ministry also is US$590, because Liu has to make up for the shortfall,”Hou said, adding his ministry is investigating whether or not Liu has done so.

Moving on to the diplomatic immunity issue, Hou argued that Liu’s hiring of a Filipina housekeeper is within the scope of her official functions and, as such, she should be immune from lawsuits. A U.S. State Department spokesman had said the kind of immunity Liu was accorded covered only the performance of approved functions. Liu’s status is the same as a consular official, but she is only immune from suits and legal processes related to acts performed within the scope of her authorized functions, the State Department spokesman said in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, Nov. 12, citing an October 1980 agreement between the two sides on privileges, exemptions and immunities.

Whether or not this is within the scope of her authorized functions is not up to the United States to say, Hou said, adding that Taiwan representatives had so far been denied a visit with Liu. Whether or not Liu is considered a suspect remains unknown, and we will continue to request U.S. prosecutor’s offices for permission to visit her, Hou added.

Hou’s testimony was corroborated by a breakdown in a MOFA press release yesterday, which claimed the Filipina’s actual take-home pay per month is US$450 plus the US$140 grocery allowance Liu gives her. The US$450 is what is left of the US$1,240 after board and lodging and insurance payments, the MOFA press release says, adding this was what the Filipina had voluntarily agreed to in a letter to Liu.

Countering the charge that the housekeeper was required to work 15 hours or more a day, the press release says Liu, in her office for long hours on a daily basis, left her basically at liberty to do whatever she saw fit. According to the MOFA, Liu lived alone in her home in Kansas City.

In the press release, the MOFA also said it would continue to strongly protest to the U.S. authorities because of the way FBI agents handled Liu smacked of a violation of the October 1980 agreement.