Roger Lin, facing political fraud charges in Taiwan, is no stranger to lawsuits. Lin’s first foray into the courthouse was litigation to obtain United States passports for Taiwan’s stateless residents. Roger Lin v. United States of America was filed in the District of Columbia federal district court in 2006. An ambitious lawsuit, Lin tested the limits of the law by claiming the Taiwanese were non-citizen nationals of the United States and deserved American passports. No one was claiming fraud then as well-wishers urged Lin onward. More significantly, no one, including the court, viewed the case as frivolous or as a fund-raising stunt.
District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer decided Lin was asking the court to review and pass judgment on the San Francisco Peace Treaty and to determine United States sovereignty over Taiwan. Although the judge was taken with the breathtaking scope of the case, it was determined the matter was not for a court to decide as it was a political question. The case was a matter of sovereignty which belongs to the executive branch of government and the “challenge involved a quintessential political question” that required “trespass into the extremely delicate relationship between and among the United States, Taiwan and China.”
“In the face of…years and years of diplomatic negotiations and delicate agreements…[it] would be foolhardy for a judge to believe that she had the jurisdiction to make a policy choice on the sovereignty of Taiwan.”
Charles Camp was Roger Lin’s attorney and spoke to the issue in oral argument before a federal appellate panel of judges. “Taiwan was left purposefully as an open question when they signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty.” Camp elaborated, “There was no agreement that could be reached among the allied forces in Japan as to who gets Taiwan. And that question is still open.”
“We are the principal occupying force, and that is the status as a matter of law today.”
Camp further argued the political question doctrine preventing a judicial determination did not apply to the case. “There’s not a single case that the Government cites that says the political question doctrine has ever prohibited a court from interpreting a treaty or determining the existence of constitutional rights.”
Camp said Judge Collyer erred in misconstruing the passport request as a determination of sovereignty.
“We were seeking a declaration of rights under the Constitution following an interpretation of the treaty by the court. So the court just sort of stepped off on the wrong foot and then if you assume that we were seeking to have a court decide who owns Taiwan, then the political act question cases would apply and she would be right.”
Although Roger Lin failed to obtain passports for Taiwan residents he did obtain an admission from the United States Attorney that the San Francisco Peace Treaty was still in effect and left the United States as the “principal occupying power” over Taiwan. Such admissions are not exactly music to the ears for the exiled Republic of China government currently administering the island.
Questions from the bench in the Taoyuan District Court criminal fraud case against Lin suggest ROC prosecutors believe the litigation was somehow part of a scam to trick Taiwan Civil Government members into donating money. Lin is accused of masterminding a sophisticated swindle with false claims. However, the lawsuit by Lin and an ad hoc group called the Taiwan Nation Party was brought before the formation of TCG and by all appearances was a legitimate effort to prevail on an unsettled area of the law. To convict Lin of fraud will require something more than speculation about the motives behind Roger Lin v. United States of America and the legal effort to obtain American passports for the residents of Taiwan.
Ironically, the government ended its brief in Lin v. USA with an addendum from the Taiwan Relations Act. “Nothing contained in this chapter shall contravene the interest of the United States in human rights, especially with respect to the human rights of all the approximately, eighteen million inhabitants of Taiwan. The preservation and enhancement of the human rights of all the people on Taiwan are hereby reaffirmed as objectives of the United States.”