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Politics

Japan opposition contender ensnared in Taiwan citizenship controversy

Renho, an acting president of the Democratic Party, speaks to reporters on Sept. 13.

TOKYO -- A leading candidate for the presidency of Japan's main opposition party is scrambling to end controversy over her dual citizenship, promising prompt action to relinquish her Taiwanese nationality.

Renho, an acting president of the Democratic Party -- who goes by one name -- had stated earlier that she gave up her Taiwanese citizenship when she became a Japanese citizen in 1985. But she acknowledged Tuesday that that was not the case. 

"My memory of what happened when I was 17 was inaccurate and caused confusion," she said. "I apologize."

Taiwanese authorities told her Monday that she is in fact a Taiwanese citizen, in response to her own inquiry, the politician said. Born to a Taiwanese father and Japanese mother, Renho acquired Japanese citizenship following a rule change that made children of Japanese mothers eligible.

According to Taiwanese law, citizenship is not relinquished automatically upon naturalization in another country, and those under the age of 20 cannot renounce their citizenship. There had been speculation that Renho, who claimed to have renounced her Taiwanese citizenship at the age of 17, actually has dual citizenship.

Meanwhile, Japanese law states that a foreigner who acquires Japanese citizenship must make efforts to renounce the citizenship in the other country. While only Japanese citizens can be elected to the Diet, there is no prohibition on dual citizenship for members of parliament.

"I became a Japanese citizen at the age of 17, and until now it was my understanding that I had relinquished my Taiwanese citizenship, so I don't believe I did anything illegal," she said, indicating that she will remain in the Democratic Party leadership election.

Renho hopes to put the matter quickly behind her by renouncing her Taiwanese citizenship. But even if she did not break any laws, some have started to express concern over her crisis-management acumen after she repeatedly changed her story without confirming facts.

Her opponents in the presidential race, Seiji Maehara and Yuichiro Tamaki, are not pursuing the issue. But some within the party are concerned that the issue will linger and provide ammunition for the ruling parties should Renho be elected party president.

(Nikkei)

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