Lee takes a tour of a US independence icon

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Wed, Oct 19, 2005 - Page 1

Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) on Monday made a stopover in Philadelphia en route from New York to Washington, visiting the Liberty Bell, the symbol of American independence, in a trip that the State Department denied President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) when he stopped in the US last month.

Lee's stopover was arranged by the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), the group who have organized the rest of Lee's tour.

In Washington, Lee and his party were met at the historic Willard Hotel in the center of the city by an animated, banner-waving group of more than 100 Taiwanese-American supporters and members of the Greater Washington chapter of the Taiwanese Association of America.

The former president shook hands and exchanged greetings with the demonstrating well-wishers as they sang the Taiwanese song Formosa My Dream and shouted "Taiwan, go, go, go."

Lee made no comment to the press as he pushed through the scrum of journalists and photographers in the lobby.

While the welcome was enthusiastic, its size was purposely limited by the Taiwanese Association of America to avoid fomenting a feared counter-demonstration by pan-blue-camp forces in the Washington area, association president Huang Mei-yueh (黃美月) told the Taipei Times.

"We didn't tell all Taiwanese-Americans because we did not want to spread the news too much," she said.

Pan-blue-camp supporters were planning a protest for last night at the Taiwan-owned mansion Twin Oaks, where the Taipei Economic and Cultural Relations Office (TECRO) was to host a dinner for Lee.

Later in the day, Lee took a symbolic tour of the city by visiting the National Archives, the home of the originals of the US Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, and then the Jefferson Memorial, the monument to US president Thomas Jefferson, the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence.

During his four days in Washington, Lee will attend a reception hosted by US congressmen in the Capitol today, hold a press conference at the National Press Club tomorrow, and hold closed-door meetings with academics and other members of the Taiwan-watching fraternity at the conservative Heritage Foundation and liberal Brookings Institution think tanks.

He will also attend a gala dinner hosted by the Taiwanese-American community.

While it is not clear if Lee will meet with members of the Bush administration, observers feel that some officials may attend one of the two think tank meetings, giving them a chance to discuss Taiwan's affairs with Lee. Officials may also attend the congressional reception.

While the visit was being billed by Lee's office as an opportunity to see "old friends," he is expected to spend much time pressing for US support for Taiwan.

A FAPA press release said that Lee would emphasize how recent and fragile Taiwan's democracy still is, and urge the US to stand firmly by its democratic ally in the region and help strengthen democracy and freedom by supporting democratic forces.

"He will appeal to the United States and the international community not to ignore the attempts of the Chinese authoritarian regime to absorb democratic Taiwan and help preserve democracy in Taiwan," the FAPA press release said.

In addition, Lee would urge the US to help Taiwan "normalize its relations with countries around the world and become a full and equal member of the international community."