U.S.-born caucasian to run for Taiwan parliament

TAIPEI (Reuters) - An American-born caucasian is running for Taiwan’s parliament next month, a first for the island, to fill a seat vacated over a flap involving the previous lawmaker’s U.S. citizenship.

Robin Winkler, a Taipei-based lawyer, environmental activist and Taiwan citizen since 2003, will run against a favored ruling Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate to fill a seat vacated by Diane Lee over questions about possible dual citizenship.

Winkler would be the first caucasian to run for parliament in Taiwan, which is 98 percent ethnic Chinese and 2 percent aboriginal. Any Taiwan citizen can run for parliament regardless of birthplace, an election official said.

“There will be, and already are, a lot of personal attacks,” said Winkler, 54, whose race and positions against large-scale developments sparked controversy when he served on a government environmental commission from 2005 to 2007.

A county official, Winkler said, assaulted him in 2007 at a government meeting when he opposed plans for a steel plant.

Winkler, a fluent Chinese speaker who has lived in Taiwan since 1977 and became a local citizen in 2003, renouncing his U.S. nationality, said he would run in the March 28 election either with Taiwan’s Green Party or on his own.

His platform includes more resources for a “sustainable economy” and greater public access to government records.

Lee, the former legislator, resigned her central Taipei seat last month because she could not disprove U.S. citizenship. Taiwan law requires legislators to give up any foreign citizenship after being elected.

Reporting by Ralph Jennings; Editing by Nick Macfie and Dean Yates