Thu, Oct 13, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Memories of Lee's American visit

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

granting visas

Credit should be given to the Cassidy effort, as there is no doubt it had contributed to achieving the final result. But it is too often overstated. The principle involved had much to do with it. At a time when we were granting visas to the "terrorist" Gerry Adams of the Irish Republican Army, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, it would have been almost impossible not to permit democratically elected Lee a visit. How many members of Congress would vote to deny Lee a visa? How many editorials would support denial?

It seemed clear to me that when all was said and done, the White House was not pleased with the State Department over the way the Lee visit had played out. This may have had consequences on where policy decisions on China and Taiwan would be made in the future. Beijing leaders were not the only ones who lost face over the decision.

Lee and his entourage arrived at Los Angeles airport on June 7 at the VIP terminal. There were no media present, no welcoming party other than the staff of Taiwan's representative office in Los Angeles; Taiwan's official representative to the US and myself with our wives, and a representative from both the city and state governments. The State Department assigned several diplomatic security officers for the entire visit.

The motorcade with the city police escort took us to a hotel in the nearby suburbs of Los Angeles. Much to everyone's surprise, a small group of well wishers from the Taiwanese community, Republic of China flags and all, were waiting there. Lee, now much more a politician than the academic of a few years earlier, dove into the crowd with glee. The security people, both theirs and ours, blanched and then dived in to protect him.

Having met so many of these people in my visits to the many Chinese and Taiwanese organizations around the country, I knew the welcomers had not been there because the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) had encouraged them. On the contrary, they were organizations over which TECRO would have had little influence.

Aside from that initial welcome, Lee met discreetly with leaders of the Chinese-American organizations of the Los Angeles area in the hotel. Then on the following morning, we left for Syracuse, New York.

The airport there was not accustomed to handling 747 aircraft, and I was told the State Department security people had demanded the plane park some distance from the small terminal to avoid the small crowd that was gathering. The mayor of Syracuse was outraged and overruled them.

As we taxied toward the parking place, it was clear from our windows that a small welcoming group with flags were waiting -- and so were senators Jesse Helms, Frank Murkowski, and Alphonse D'Amato, who had flown up from Washington to meet him. The welcomers there were from the same type of organizations I had seen in Los Angeles. After all the welcoming speeches were finished, Cornell University president Frank Rhodes led the Lee entourage to the cars for the drive to Cornell.

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