Roger Lin, the founder of Taiwan Civil Government, an advocacy group, sought United States passports in 2006 for Taiwanese under the control of the Republic of China in-exile. Lin and others filed suit in the District of Columbia federal court seeking the passports under terms of the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty. Lin is now facing prosecution by the ROC for alleged political fraud, accused of deceiving TCG members with false claims about identification cards and vanity license plates. Lin will be tried in Taoyuan District court without benefit of a jury trial, leaving his fate in the hands of an ROC judge.
In the passport case, Lin appealed a denial by the District Court which ruled the case was a political issue not a legal matter. The appeal was decided in 2009, a year after Lin founded Taiwan Civil Government. Although Lin lost the case he found an interested court. The unresolved status of Taiwan since the end of World War II leaves the United States, under the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the chief occupying power. The ROC was not a party to the peace treaty.
Washington attorney Charles Camp was Lin’s lawyer and litigated the lawsuit. Camp continues to maintain the claim was meritorious. A three judge panel issued the Lin v. United States decision and opened the ruling with a strong declaration about Taiwan’s stateless condition in the first sentence. The friendliness of the court in Lin’s case suggests that he came close to obtaining the passports.
“America’s and China’s tumultuous relationship over the past sixty years has trapped the inhabitants of Taiwan in political purgatory. During this time the people on Taiwan have lived without any uniformly recognized government. In practical terms, they have uncertain status in the world community which infects the population’s day-to-day lives. This pervasive ambiguity has driven Appellants to try to concretely define their national identity and personal rights.”
“Determining Appellants’ nationality would require us to trespass into a controversial area of U.S. foreign policy in order to resolve a question the Executive Branch intentionally left unanswered for over sixty years: who exercises sovereignty over Taiwan. This we cannot do.”
“We do not disagree with Appellants’ assertion that we could resolve this case through treaty analysis…we merely decline to do so as this case presents a political question which strips us of jurisdiction.”
“Once the Executive determines Taiwan’s sovereign, we can decide Appellants’ resulting status….But for many years…the Executive has gone out of its way to avoid making that determination, creating an information deficit for determining the status of the people on Taiwan.”
“Appellants may even be correct; careful analysis of the SFPT might lead us to conclude the United States has temporary sovereignty. But we will never know, because the political question doctrine forbids us from commencing that analysis. We do not dictate to the Executive what governments serve as the supreme political authorities of foreign lands.”
With the election of Donald Trump, the strategy of TCG has been to get the White House involved in resolution of Taiwan’s status. Meanwhile, Trump is fighting a trade war with China while Taiwan is getting growing attention in Washington.
Roger Lin and his wife Julian now face long prison sentences from the exiled government they seek to expel from Taiwan. The fraud arrests have cooled Washington progress for TCG despite an increase in spending on publicity by the group. News reports on the fraud prosecution are non-existent in the United States as the fog of ambiguity clouds this unique, international crime story.