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Taiwan lodges strong protest over U.S. detention of diplomat

2011/11/11 23:57:04

Taipei, Nov. 11 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Friday lodged a strong protest over the U.S. detention of a Taiwanese diplomat and demanded she be immediately released unconditionally.

Foreign Affairs Minister Timothy Yang said Jacqueline Liu, director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City, was arrested early Friday Taipei time by Federal Investigation Bureau (FBI) agents.

She was ordered to remain in custody pending a federal detention hearing scheduled for Nov. 16 in Kansas City.

According to a report by McClatchy Newspapers, Liu has been charged with violating federal law because she had forced her Filipina housekeeper to work long hours and paid her far less than promised in her employment contract.

The report, citing federal prosecutors, said the defendent is believed to be the first foreign representative to face the charge in the United States.

Yang said that under an agreement on privileges and immunities signed between Taiwan and the United States in 1980, Liu enjoys immunity, and the ministry "has no way of understanding" the FBI's approach.

"Before Taiwan forsakes immunity, U.S. law enforcement authorities cannot treat ROC diplomatic personnel that way," Yang said.

He stressed that Liu still enjoyed immunity privileges under the pact, and said that even if U.S. law enforcement authorities have a case, they should still follow diplomatic channels and not "violate or ignore the agreement."

Bruce J. D. Linghu, director of the MOFA's Department of North American Affairs, called the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy here in the absence of diplomatic ties, and Deputy Foreign Minister Lyushun Shen called in acting AIT Director Eric Madison to express strong protests.

AIT spokesman Christopher Kavanagh deferred questions on the issue to the U.S. Justice Department because it was a criminal case.

The ministry said its understanding of the case is that the FBI arrested Liu on a charge of fraud in a foreign labor contract, which carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in federal prison.

According to an FBI affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint in court, Liu allegedly signed the contract with the Filipina, identified in court documents by the initials F.V., to work 40 hours per week for a monthly pay of US$1,240 plus overtime.

But when F.V. arrived in Kansas City, she was required to work between 16 and 18 hours a day for between US$400 and US$450 a month, the McClatchy report said.

Liu also allegedly took the woman's visa and passport and threatened her with deportation if she did not do as she was told.

In late July, F.V. met another Filipino at a grocery store where Liu had driven her to buy groceries and solicited help. F.V was taken away from Liu's house in August and is currently in a protected location, the report said.

In their motion seeking to have Liu held without bond pending trial, federal prosecutors alleged that she made arrangements to leave the United States "immediately" once she became aware of a possible federal investigation, the report said.

But Liu was scheduled to return to Taiwan after serving three years in Kansas City, the ministry said.

(By Angela Tsai and Lilian Wu)