Wed, Jul 04, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Crowd of thousands welcomes Lee's return

HOMECOMING Although the crowd of well-wishers who greeted the former president swelled to huge numbers, notably absent was KMT Chairman Lien Chan

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former president Lee Teng-hui yesterday returned from his trip to the US and was greeted by a large gathering of well-wishers at CKS International Airport. Lee urged the crowd to have confidence in Taiwan.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

Thousands of supporters greeted former president President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) at CKS airport last night as he returned from his 10-day US trip.

"Go for it, Lee Teng-hui" and "Long live Taiwan" the crowd shouted, with supporters carrying banners and placards packing the airport's arrival hall on the first and second floors. "Implement the special state-to-state cross-strait relations to save Taiwan," one of the banners read.

Lee and his wife Tseng Wen-hui (曾文惠) waved enthusiastically back to the crowd, thanking them for their support as they made their way out of the airport.

"Let's all have confidence in our Taiwan. We, Taiwan, are getting stronger and stronger," Lee said, his voice roaring from a handheld megaphone.

"Let's all give our government another two years to do their best," Lee yelled, with the loud cheer of his supporters nearly drowning him out.

Among the crowd, there were many members from several pro-Taiwan groups, including the Southern Taiwan Society (台灣南社), the Central Taiwan Society (台灣中社) and the newly-formed Northern Taiwan Society (台灣北社).

Noting the political significance of Lee's return, local media kept a close eye on who was present last night to welcome home the former president.

KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) was notably absent.

"I have a pre-scheduled economic discussion with party officials and economic experts, but I welcome him home from his long trip," Lien said.

Instead, the KMT dispatched one of its vice chairmen, Huang Jeng-shyong (黃正雄), to greet Lee at the airport.

Also on hand yesterday was Deputy Secretary-General to the president Chen Che-nan (陳哲男). From the KMT, there was Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), former premier Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), former minister of the interior Huang Chu-wen (黃主文) and China Development Industrial Bank President Liu Tai-ying (劉泰英).

Compared to his 1995 Cornell trip -- which had the goal of boosting Taiwan's international exposure -- Lee's trip this time more or less focused on promoting his pro-Taiwan ideology back at home.

During his stopovers in Los Angeles, Lee claimed that "as long as Taiwan's economic downturn continues, I won't retire," and said his efforts to bolster Taiwan's democracy and freedom would continue.

His remarks have left political watchers shell-shocked and many speculating on the future direction of domestic politics. There's been talk Lee will back a group of pro-Taiwan legislators to support the DPP, though the former KMT chairman says he has no intention of forming a new political party.

Now that Lee has returned, political watchers will be keeping a close eye on future developments.

A pro-Lee faction organized by one of Lee's right hand men -- Huang Chu-wen -- reportedly will register itself as a new political party by the end of this month, and the group will then announce its list of slated legislative candidates. The group intends to back President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) after the year-end elections.

In addition, Lee is expected to face down KMT heavyweights who, on Monday, threatened to have his party membership revoked.

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