Tue, Jan 04, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Koo Chen-fu, 88, dies of kidney cancer

CHANGE OF MIND The prominent cross-strait diplomat was a key player throughout years of faltering talks with China; his death was greeted with sorrow from Beijing

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The late chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation, Koo Chen-fu, crouching, attends the 5th APEC summit meeting on Nov. 26, 1997, in Vancouver with former Singaporean prime minister Goh Chok Tong, second left, former Thai prime minister Chuan Leekpai, second right, and former US president Bill Clinton, right.

PHOTO: CNA

Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), Taiwan's top negotiator with China and chairman of the semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), died aged 88 in Taipei early yesterday morning.

Koo and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Daohan (汪道涵), who together set up the first official contact between Taiwan and China in 1993, died of complications from kidney cancer, said a spokesman from the Cheng Hsin Rehabilitation Medical Center, where Koo had been treated since October.

Koo's heart condition worsened at around 2:30am and doctors made several attempts at resuscitation.

"However, doctors could not defibrillate [him] because of his fragile health. He passed away peacefully at 4:05am," medical center deputy director Fu Jene-john (符振中) said at a press conference.

Koo's physician, Luke Chang (張心湜), said Koo had suffered from kidney disease for 15 years. In 1997, Koo's right kidney was removed, and he underwent kidney dialysis on a regular basis after cancer was discovered in his left kidney in 2003.

Wang, chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, sent a letter of condolence to Koo's wife, Cecilia Koo (辜嚴倬雲), yesterday afternoon. He said he was shocked and saddened by the death of Koo, who became chairman of the SEF in 1991.

"I am shocked by the sudden death of Mr. Koo. This wise man has perished and my sorrow increases when I think about this. Mr. Koo had been committed to cross-strait relations for 14 years. I have long admired him, a man so well-versed in Chinese literature and poetry," Wang wrote.

Recalling their two historic meetings -- the so-called Koo-Wang talks -- in Singapore in 1993 and Shanghai in 1998, Wang said he did not think that the meeting in Shanghai would be the last time he would be able to meet Koo.

"If God has feelings, he would feel my regret, too," Wang wrote.

But he added that "peace" and "unification" were the only two ways out for China and Taiwan.

Wang said he hoped that Taiwan and China could retain the so-called "1992 consensus" -- which led to the Koo-Wang talks in Singapore -- so that "a new chapter of negotiation and dialogue" could be written.

Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), chief of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, praised Koo for "abiding by the 1992 consensus."

"When I met with Mr. Koo in Beijing six years ago, he toasted us and gave blessings to people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and for the reunification of China. I am still very touched when I think about that," Chen said.

Chen was referring to Koo's trip to Beijing to meet Jiang Zemin (江澤民), then general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, after his stop in Shanghai.

However, Koo's brother Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏), a senior presidential advisor and fervent supporter of Taiwan's independence, said Koo Chen-fu changed his mind about unification with China.

Koo Kwang-ming said that a few days ago his brother said, "we can never let China devour Taiwan."

"If the people of Taiwan cannot unite, how can they face China and the US?" Koo Kwang-ming quoted his brother as saying.

Koo Kwang-ming added, "My political stance has been different from my brother's. But what he told me a few days before his death really moved me."

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Premier Yu Shyi-kun visited a mourning hall set up for Koo on the premises of his company, Taiwan Cement Corp.

The Mainland Affairs Council has appointed Vice Chairman Johnnason Liu (劉德勳) as acting head of the SEF.

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