Taiwan presidential candidates trade barbs over loyalty

( dpa ) - The rival candidates in Taiwan's upcoming presidential election traded barbs Thursday over their loyalty to the island over claims and counterclaims about who has US residency.

Ma Ying-jeou of the main opposition Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), countered claims made Tuesday by Frank Hsieh of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that Ma and his wife have US resident status and that their daughter has US citizenship.

"How could he use this to accuse me, given that his brother and sister both have green cards?" Ma asked.

Hsieh's charge has hurt the image of the highly popular Ma, who has enjoyed a comfortable lead over Hsieh in the run-up to the March 22 presidential election.

According to the latest opinion survey, support for Ma has dropped 3 percentage points to 53 per cent against Hsieh's 26 per cent.

Although Ma stressed he and his wife had long given up their US resident cards and their daughter is already an adult, who has her own right to decide whether to keep her US citizenship, Hsieh continued to question Ma's loyalty on Thursday.

He said the KMT candidate had never officially revoked his US resident status and that he can always apply to regain his status as a direct relative of his daughter even if his permanent residency was already void.

In defence, Ma showed his passport and non-immigrant visas, indicating that he had not used a US resident card to enter the United States for at least 10 years.

Under US law, the resident status of a foreigner is automatically revoked if he or she lives outside the United State for more than a year.

Ma's aides also said that, according to Hsieh's logic, Hsieh could apply through his brother or sister if he wanted to emigrate to the United States.

The aides also said Hsieh was disloyal for once applying for a visa to visit rival China and for being entertained by communist officials there. Ma has never visited China before, they said.

Hsieh has been fighting an uphill battle in the presidential race after the DPP suffered its worst election setback since it was founded in 1986, taking just 27 of the 113 seats in the new parliament which will meet for the first time on Friday.

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