93. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Ball to President Kennedy0


  • Visa Case of Thomas W.I. Liao

You will recall that Thomas W.I. Liao, self-styled “President of the Republic of Formosa in Exile,” was denied a United States visa prior to 1961 because it was believed that his anticipated activities in the United States would be prejudicial to the national interest under Section 212(a)(27) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. It is clear that Liao’s main purpose in seeking admission to the United States is to press his cause on Americans and to build up support for it among Taiwanese groups here. The Government of the Republic of China (GRC) is well aware of Liao’s activities and plans and would take strong exception to his entry into the United States.

For several years the Department has been under continuing pressure from Senator Fulbright to admit Liao on the grounds that his continued exclusion is incompatible with our traditional attitude regarding the right of dissenters to be heard in the United States. In May 1961 the Department concluded that Liao should no longer be excluded on the grounds cited above, and decided to admit him. In response to a subsequent GRC protest the Department replied that we would defer issuing a visa until we had discussed with the GRC the best way of handling his admission.

You ordered this deferral to minimize difficulties we then faced with the GRC, particularly in connection with the Chinese representation issue in the United Nations. At no time was the GRC given reason to believe that Liao would be barred permanently. During your discussions with Vice President Chen Cheng on August 1, 1961, the point was made to him that Liao’s presence in the United States would go virtually unnoticed, but that his continued exclusion might make him a figure of national prominence. Recent publicity in the New York Times and Look magazine have borne out this contention.

Liao’s entry would under any circumstances cause at least a temporary worsening in our relations with the GRC, and in particular would anger President Chiang. We believe, however, that the anticipated adverse GRC reaction could be reduced if Liao’s admission were to come when our relations with the GRC are otherwise reasonably tranquil. [Page 198]Since the Chinese representation issue is not active in the United Nations, it appears that the next few weeks may afford us an opportunity to admit Liao with a minimum adverse impact. The Department has accordingly decided to admit Liao to the United States under the conditions set forth below, subject to your approval.

In order to lessen the effect on GRC sensitivities of Liao’s activities in the United States, the Department proposes to require that he comply with the provisions of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Should he attempt to establish his “government’s” headquarters here, we would inform him that the United States Government does not tolerate the existence of such regimes in this country, and that he must either desist or face deportation. With such leverage over Liao, the Department believes we could safely admit him at an early date and so control his activities as to minimize the impact on our relations with the GRC.

We would, of course, want Liao out of the country prior to the opening of the next General Assembly, when his presence might be damaging to our effort to sustain the GRC’s position in the United Nations, and possibly seriously affect our relations with the GRC. The Department would therefore propose to request the Immigration and Naturalization Service to limit Liao’s stay to a three month period. We would also inform the GRC of our decision, and of the actions we would take to minimize the effect of his activities here.1

George W. Ball
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, China. Confidential.
  2. A memorandum of March 27 from Bundy to Rusk states that the President had considered the Department’s memorandum and “does not believe that it makes sense to admit Liao at present and considers it still to be true that his anticipated activities in the United States would be prejudicial to the national interest.” (Ibid.)