Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said yesterday he had declined an invitation to attend President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) inauguration ceremony on Sunday as “a form of silent protest” about Ma’s policies.
Speaking at a press conference in Greater Tainan, the 89-year-old said he was aware that a series of massive protests would coincide with the ceremony and added that people have the right to voice their opinion.
However, as a former president, he said he would rather offer his experience to Ma than resort to “extreme ways” to embarrass the incumbent president.
Lee also clarified his relations with the Taiwan Solidarity Union, the party he helped found in 2001. Lee said that at present he has no direct connection with the party, even though the party views him as its “spiritual leader.”
Lee, often dubbed “Taiwan’s Mr Democracy,” was on the second day of his three-day visit to southern Taiwan, the second such trip following his recovery from cancer surgery. He visited Greater Kaohsiung and Pingtung County last month.
In a stop at the Wushantou Reservoir (烏山頭水庫) in Greater Tainan, Lee praised late Japanese engineer Yoichi Hatta as the best example of the “Japanese spirit.”
Lee paid tribute to Hatta (1886-1942), laying flowers at his statue, which is located on a hill that overlooks the reservoir.
Hatta was the designer of Chia-nan Irrigation Waterways and the Wushantou Reservoir, which were built between 1920 and 1930 during the Japanese colonial period. His work improved rice harvests in today’s Yunlin, Chiayi and Tainan areas, allowing rice to be harvested three times a year.
While his design was questioned and the funding was at one point suspended, Hatta’s determination to complete the project never wavered, Lee said, adding that the engineer showed compassion to Taiwanese throughout his stay in the nation.
“History proved that Hatta was right,” Lee said.
That is why people in the south have always shown the utmost respect to Hatta and his wife, who were both buried in Taiwan, he said.
“I have never seen any politician in Taiwan — or Japan — who has the same determination, perseverance and compassion as Hatta,” said Lee, who choked several times and almost burst into tears as he recalled Hatta’s contributions and humanity.
Lee later met with Chiayi Mayor Huang Min-hui (黃敏惠) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the first time he has been received by a KMT official during his two recent trips to the south.
Lee reiterated his call to privatize state-run companies and to release state-owned land to stimulate local economies.
Citing the example of Japan’s national railway company, Lee said it had serious management problems after World War II and was not profitable until it was privatized and split into six separate companies.
Lee is scheduled to return to Taipei today.
He is set to embark on another trip to southern Taiwan at the end of this month, to visit Yunlin County.