National / Politics

Renho admits she started process to get Japanese nationality only this month

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Democratic Party President Renho revealed that she only made her official declaration to choose Japanese nationality over Taiwanese this month, an admission that she has still failed to take the legally obliged steps to end her dual citizenship status.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo on Saturday, Renho said her application to put an end to her dual nationality saga hit an unexpected snag when a local municipal office in the capital refused to accept documentation proving she had recently renounced her Taiwanese citizenship. She has a Japanese mother and a Taiwanese father.

“They then told me that I needed to make a declaration about which nationality I wanted to adopt,” TV footage showed her telling reporters. She reportedly made the declaration Oct. 7.

On Sept. 13. Renho, who has Japanese citizenship, said she had just started the legal process with Taiwanese officials to renounce her Taiwanese nationality.

At the same time she emphasized she had not violated any law because Article 16 of the Nationality Law only obliges a person with dual citizenship to “make efforts” to renounce foreign citizenship.

Still, Article 14 of the same law separately obliges a person with dual citizenship to choose a nationality before he or she reaches the age of 22.

To choose Japanese citizenship, a person would need to file documents proving he or she has renounced their citizenship of a foreign country or submit a written document declaring they choose to take Japanese nationality.

Renho’s admission Saturday showed she failed to carry out both steps.

The Nationality Law has no penalty provisions.

Renho has maintained that she had “chosen Japanese nationality” of her own volition in 1985 when she applied for Japanese citizenship with her Taiwanese father at the age of 17.

Saturday’s revelation will likely encourage her political foes — including lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party — to question further her assertion that she had broken no law as well as her suitability to lead the nation’s biggest opposition party. Distrust toward her leadership within the DP could also swell.

Conservative lawmakers from the LDP and Nippon Ishin no Kai have questioned Renho’s claim that she did not violate the law. What they say they find intolerable is that she remained oblivious to the alleged illegality of her status the whole time she served as a lawmaker.

Meanwhile, the same politicians take a somewhat more forgiving view of LDP lawmaker Kimi Onoda, who, like Renho, also had dual citizenship. She failed to take the necessary steps by the age of 22 to renounce her U.S. nationality, but filed the necessary paperwork before she successfully ran for a Diet seat for the first time in July’s Upper House election.

“Renho used to be state minister and special adviser to the prime minister. At the very least, she should have made the nationality declaration before taking up these positions,” LDP lawmaker Junko Mihara told an Upper House budget committee Thursday. “That she remains ambiguous about whether she did is a very big problem, I believe,”

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