The island’s first democratically elected president, he started the democratic transition in 1990, after the Tiananmen massacre. A supporter of Taiwan’ identity, he was disliked by the Communist leadership in Beijing. in Chinese media he was described as the “Godfather of Taiwan secessionism.”
Taipei (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan’s first democratically elected president, died yesterday at the age of 97.
Lee, who led the island from 1988 to 2000 and started the country’s peaceful and rapid transition from dictatorship to democracy, had been in a hospital for five months. He died of complications from pneumonia.
He was born under Japanese colonial rule, and studied in Japan and the United States. A member of the Kuomintang, Lee was the heir apparent of Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Chiang Kai-shek, the nationalist leader who settled on the island in 1949 after losing the civil war on mainland China with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Lee set the country on the path to full democracy in 1990, immediately after the Tiananmen massacre in the wake of student protests.
One of the first measures he took was lifting the martial law “against the communist rebellion,” together with the introduction of a multi-party system and the direct election of the president.
At the end of his presidency, Lee made efforts to promote Taiwanese identity and statehood, drawing the ire of Beijing. The CCP considers the island a “rebel province” to be forcibly reunited if needed.
In 1996, when Taiwan held its first direct presidential election, the Chinese launched massive military exercises, which ended when a US fleet intervened.
In recent years, Lee emphasised his “pro-independence” stance by saying the island and Beijing have “state-to-state relations of special nature”.
Because of his closeness to the positions of the Democratic Progressive Party, the pro-independence party led by current President Tsai Ing-wen, he was expelled from the Kuomintang. Lee openly supported Tsai’s rise to power.
As a result of his criticism of Beijing’s One-China policy, the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times called him the "Godfather of Taiwanese secessionism".