Protest filed in US over official’s arrest


BAD BEHAVIOR:A Taiwanese official in Kansas City was arrested after allegedly paying her housekeeper less than stated in her contract and for holding the woman’s passport By Shih Hsiu-chuan / Staff Reporter

Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang, right, talks during a press conference in Taipei City yesterday. Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

The government has “lodged a strong protest” with the US government over the arrest of a Taiwanese official on a charge of violating US federal law and demanded her immediate and unconditional release, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) said yesterday.

The official was arrested for allegedly violating US federal law in the hiring of her Filipino housekeeper.

Yang said he summoned Eric Madison, acting director of the American Institute in Taiwan, yesterday to register the protest, while Taiwanese Representative to the US Jason Yuan (袁健生), who was in Hawaii for an APEC meeting, also took up the issue with the US.

According to a report in the Kansas City Star, a newspaper based in Kansas City, Missouri, Liu Hsien-hsien (劉姍姍), director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the city, was arrested on Thursday by FBI agents.

Yang told a press conference that the arrest was not in line with the spirit and content of the regulations concerning diplomatic privileges and immunity signed between Taipei and Washington in the 1980s.

“We demand that the US judiciary release Director-General Liu immediately and without any conditions. If the US needs her to explain the case, she will be available for questioning in many other ways ... They [the US] should not treat our diplomats in this way,” he said.

The Kansas City Star said Liu was believed to be the first foreign representative to face this particular charge in the US.

The paper said Liu made her first appearance before a judge later on Friday last week and was ordered to remain in custody pending a US federal detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday in Kansas City.

The report added that the charge alleges that Liu forced her housekeeper to work long hours and paid her much less than was stated in her employment contract.

Liu also allegedly confiscated the woman’s passport and threatened her with deportation if she did not do as she was told, the paper said.

The housekeeper, identified in court documents by the initials F.V., was allegedly kept in virtual isolation inside Liu’s home, the paper said, citing an FBI affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint as saying that “Liu told [the housekeeper] she was not to leave the house without permission and that she would be working six days a week at a minimum.”

Liu allegedly required F.V. to work 16 to 18 hours a day for US$400 to US$450 a month.

“Liu monitored F.V. from video surveillance cameras she had installed inside her residence,” the paper quoted the court documents as saying.

The paper quoted prosecutors as saying: “While there have been previous prosecutions of foreign representatives for mistreating domestic workers, Liu is accused of violating the law that covers the recruitment of foreign workers and their transport into the US on fraudulent terms.”

The charge of fraud in foreign labor contracts carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in federal prison, the paper said.

In their motion to have Liu held without bond pending trial, federal prosecutors allege that she made arrangements to leave the US “immediately” once she became aware of a possible federal investigation, the paper said.

Prosecutors also allege that after F.V. escaped, Liu made efforts to locate her and have her deported.

“The offense involved threats, fraud and coercion against the victim,” prosecutors stated in their detention motion, the paper said.

Yang declined to go into details regarding the charges against Liu, saying that “those allegations have yet to be clarified.”

The housekeeper was hired to work at the office, not Liu’s home, Yang said.