Lee Teng-hui: Taiwan’s ‘father of democracy’ dies

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Lee Teng-hui Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Lee received Taiwan’s first presidential vote by a landslide

Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, thought of the “father of Taiwan’s democracy”, has died on the age of 97.

He served as president of Taiwan, from 1988 to 2000.

Lee was credited with ending autocratic rule in favour of pluralism and democracy – however was additionally a controversial determine.

His makes an attempt to delink the island from China sparked tensions with Beijing, which sees Taiwan as a part of its territory to be reunited sooner or later.

Lee died on Thursday from septic shock and a number of organ failure in Taipei, after being in hospital for nearly six months.

During his time in workplace he led constitutional modifications in direction of a extra democratic political format, together with direct presidential elections.

Current President Tsai Ing-wen mentioned “he laid the foundation of a democracy built on pride and our own identity”.

Lee thrived on defying China’s drive to soak up the island and hoped for Taiwan to be “a country of democracy, freedom, human rights and dignity.”

He turned president in 1988 after the loss of life of predecessor, Chiang Ching-kuo.

In 1996 – the primary direct presidential election in Taiwan – he was democratically elected for a second time period with a landslide victory.

Ahead of the vote, mainland China performed months of intimidating battle video games and missiles checks across the water to affect the election towards him.

Since a civil battle within the 1940s, China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that can finally be a part of the nation once more. But many Taiwanese see the island as a de-facto impartial nation, though surveys present most individuals are not looking for formal independence, preferring to take care of the established order.

Taiwan’s present President Tsai Ing-wen is taken into account Lee’s protege and seems to comply with in his footsteps – distancing Taiwan from the mainland whereas garnering US backing, with tensions reaching a brand new excessive in recent times.

If the scenario had been to escalate, some fear the US might doubtlessly be part of Taiwan towards China in a battle that neither Washington, nor Beijing actually needs to struggle.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office on Friday mentioned it had seen the information and that “Taiwan independence is a dead end”.

Mainland state media Global Times in the meantime known as him the “Godfather of Taiwan secessionism”.

“Lee’s death is definitely not sad news to most people in the Chinese mainland,” an article on the newspaper’s web site mentioned.

‘Lee made democracy a actuality’

Analysis by Cindy Sui, BBC News, Taiwan

While his predecessor Chiang Ching-kuo paved the best way for democracy, Lee Teng-hui made it a actuality.

While he was president, he removed legal guidelines that hindered democratic growth, overhauled the legislature, carried out free legislative elections, and allowed Taiwanese folks to vote for his or her president for the primary time.

This has had a long-lasting affect on Taiwan, serving to it develop into a vibrant democracy, which was not doable in Japanese colonial instances – or within the early a long time of nationalist rule.

But he has additionally been criticised for unnecessarily antagonising China, and elevating tensions between Taiwan and the mainland.

Lee’s makes an attempt to eliminate Taiwan’s historic hyperlinks with mainland China – and regard itself as a separate nation – prompted Beijing to check hearth missiles near Taiwan, which led to Washington sending the most important armada of warships to Asia because the Vietnam War, within the doubtlessly explosive 1995-96 Taiwan Strait Crisis.

Both Beijing and Taipei have since constructed up their army, turning the area into one of many largest flashpoints on the planet.

His legacy of bringing about democracy in Taiwan, a lot faster than it might need come, but in addition sparking tensions with Beijing by pushing for a separate identification for the island, continues past his loss of life.

After his presidency, Lee was indicted on fees of embezzling public funds, however was acquitted.

And later in life, he was criticised for his pro-Japanese colonial views, which had been thought of outdated.

He visited Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine, which honours World War Two battle criminals, and rejected as lies Japan’s wartime atrocities – the Nanjing Massacre and use of so-called consolation ladies as intercourse slaves.

He additionally upset many Taiwanese by saying the Taiwan-claimed Diaoyutai Islands belonged to Japan.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Current President Tsai (left) was a protege of Lee (proper)