Taiwan: Ma tax scandal could suggest prejudice, concern

IRS "Bomb" Cloud (political art)

IRS “Bomb” Cloud (political art)

The Taipei Times has noted new claims and information about a tax scandal orbiting Taiwan President Ma (馬英九). The article from the previous day was in response to a Next Magazine article explaining that Ma may be liable for at least $1 million USD in taxes owed to the IRS.

Ma was not accused of cheating on his tax returns; he has simply been mentioned by an IRS office in Beijing as not having filed them at all and possibly owing unpaid monies. Ma’s green card, obtained in 1977, was said to have expired as of Taiwan’s 2008 Presidential elections and that, while the card expired, his permanent residency did not, which may cause more problems for Ma in Taiwan than in the US. However, information has remained incomplete. While the US-Taiwan (AIT) office in Washington, a US government entity, explained that the Ma’s residency status was in US Immigration records, the date of his resignation remains unconfirmed.

This is an important issue because, about five years ago, a scandal broke out in the Taiwan government with an official who had a US green card. Someone with “right of abode” in another country is not allowed to be a part of Taiwan’s legislative process, which affects eligibility for political candidates and appointed bureaucrats. Yuan’s green card scandal of 2009 could cast a shadow on Ma in 2014. If Ma still had residency status, his presidency itself could be called into question because of a technicality that Ma’s own administration has rigidly enforced.

While Next Magazine is dearly loved for its reporting style, even though its credibility is low, the publication indicates at least two trends: the public would love to read any negative story about Ma and not all members of the Taiwan and Hong Kong media are Ma’s friends.

There are deeper questions: Why didn’t Ma resign from his US residency long before Taiwan’s 2008 Presidential election? Why did he explain that an expiring green card mean that his residency also expired when US residency can only be resigned from in writing? Is it possible that Ma, a Harvard graduate, does not understand US Immigration law? An understanding of Taiwan’s Immigration policies sheds some light on why Ma did not handle his former green card with more attention to detail.

In Taiwan, once a foreigner’s residency card expires, so does the residency and the foreigner goes back to square one. This is a stark contrast to losing residency in the US, which requires a written termination, even if a green card expires. Likely, Ma probably just “assumed”—as Taiwan’s government often does in governing foreigners within their own borders.

While the Taiwanese people are exceptionally hospitable, there is a laundry list of problems with Taiwan Immigration policy. This has been noted by their disregard for safety in allowing criminals to remain while cancelling visas of foreigners for merely exercising free speech, even foreigners falsely accused of exercising free speech. This happened while Ma was in office.

In the case of an American born Chinese who began as an English teacher in Taiwan during 2009, Annie Chen sued the Taiwan government’s Labor department and won. She started a website that exposes the improper treatment of native English teachers in Taiwan called TADIT. This also happened while Ma was in office.

In addition, over 1,000 illegal Chinese are estimated by Immigration to be in Taiwan. This number does not include the 6,000+ Chinese who were estimated to have entered Taiwan illegally by 1993. With China aiming about 2,000 missiles at the island, undocumented Chinese would pose a greater threat to Taiwan’s domestic security in the minds of some. But the recent evacuations from Vietnam indicate that Chinese are capable of leaving a country—if they want to. No significant action from Ma’s regime against these illegal Chinese has been reported.

Ma has been busy, though. His forceful posture toward his father’s deathbed wish, that Taiwan be reunited with China in a subtle way, could explain why Ma neglected the details of his US residency status explains his negligence in so many other international issues. Ma already has an international agenda: unite Taiwan and China. All other issues emphasized by their US ally, their Vietnamese trade partners, Taiwan’s own citizens, Immigration reform in his own country, and even understanding his own US residency status are all secondary.

In other scandals this week, a former US diplomat urged President Obama not to comment on Taiwan’s 2016 elections—unlike 2012. In the next election, with Taiwan’s opposition party gaining popularity, the US will not drop comments that inadvertently help Ma’s ruling KMT political party as they did in the 2012 Taiwan elections. Ma also serves as the Chairman of the KMT.

The issue with Ma’s US residency status seems to have been clarified and will no longer haunt him, in similar fashion to how questions about Obama’s birth certificate faded after a time. If there are issues that haunt Ma, they will likely surface from his decisions as president. It is unlikely that Ma will be removed from his Presidency based on any technicalities.

Source: Pacific Daily Times
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Categories: Human Rights & Social Issues

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4 replies


  1. Taipei’s strong message to Beijing: China has no place in making decisions affecting Taiwan | China Daily Mail
  2. Prelude to Conflict: Asia, August 25 | China Daily Mail
  3. Cadence of Conflict: Asia, May 11, 2015 | China Daily Mail
  4. Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 30, 2015 | China Daily Mail

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